Around the Green
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Preston Stout Leads Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Championship
DALLAS – Preston Stout from Richardson birdied his final hole Tuesday at Lakewood Country Club to take a one-shot lead after one round at the 2021 Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship. Stout, an incoming junior at J.J. Pearce High School, shot a 5-under-par 66 that included an eagle-2 on the par-4 13th hole.
“I’m trying to win the golf tournament,” Stout said of his expectations for the week. “I’ve been hitting the ball well lately, so I was hoping to keep the good ball-striking going.”
Mission accomplished though 18 holes. Stout began his round on the back nine and quickly birdied his first hole, the par-4 10th. After the eagle on No. 13, Stout added a birdie on the par-5 17th and made the turn bogey-free and 4-under par. He made two more birdies on his second nine, offset by his lone bogey on the 211-yard, par-3 fifth hole.
“I kept it in the fairway and hit a lot of greens,” said Stout, who finished T39 in the 2020 Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship. “I like this course because it’s tight, and I’m pretty straight off the tee. It’s a nice course, a lot of fun to play.”
Stout came into the championship riding a heater of momentum. He won the American Junior Golf Association’s Carolina Trace Junior in late March. In early May, Stout was victorious at the TaylorMade Junior Open at Texas Rangers Golf Course in Arlington. A couple weeks after that, he finished as a runner-up in UIL Class 6A Individual State Championships.
Stout leads a pair of Austin juniors, Andrew Tan and Zachary Kingsland. They both shot 4-under 67 on Tuesday. Tan, a junior at Vandegrift High School, poured in six birdies on Lakewood’s pure rolling bentgrass greens. Kingsland, a junior at Westlake High School, also made six birdies in the first round. Kingsland in May helped lead Westlake to its fourth consecutive (and 11th overall) UIL Class 6A state championship with an 18-shot victory at Legacy Hills Golf Club in Georgetown.
Three players share fourth place at 3-under 68. Ben Gregg from Dallas, Ty Holbrook from Granbury and Westy McCabe from Dallas are all just two shots behind Stout headed into Wednesday’s second round of the celebrated 54-hole championship.
As it has been virtually all year, weather was a factor on Tuesday. After nearly 2 inches of rain fell on Monday, and another half inch on Tuesday morning, the Legends Junior Tour staff moved back first round tee times by 30 minutes, but another 30-minute delay was needed to let the course dry out.
Lakewood has received more than 10 inches of rain since May 1.
For the first time in tournament history, the LJT conducted a Monday Qualifier for the final four spots into the 90-player field. Elijah Estonilo from Allen won the Qualifier with a 2-under 69. Matthew Foster from Dallas (-1), Grant Yerger from Austin (+1) and Luke D’Alise from Lubbock (+1) also played their way into the championship on Monday.
In each of the past few years, the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship has received registration entries from more than 350 juniors from across the state. With a 90-player cap to the starting field, most who try to enter don’t get in.
“We decided to do a Monday Qualifier this year to help meet the demand for entries,” LJT Tournament Director Kevin Porter said. “We also wanted to give the championship more of a professional feel to it. The Monday Qualifier helps there, too.”
Estonilo, who won the Qualifier, was one of those juniors who, in years past, couldn’t get into the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship. He said the experience was stressful, but he added that the addition of a Monday Qualifier to what he considers to be the best junior tournament in Texas only makes the event more special.
“I think it was an amazing decision to add the Monday Qualifier,” Estonilo said. “With the Qualifier, you can prove yourself on this course, which is very difficult. You can prove that you belong in this tournament with the best players in Texas and in the entire U.S., perhaps.”
Round 2 of the Veritex Bank Byron Nelson Junior Championship starts Wednesday at 8 a.m. For more information, including complete scoring, click here.