HUDSON: As the first round of the Hudson Junior Invitational got underway Tuesday, Chase Johnson was both looking back and forward as he navigated the Country Club of Hudson.
He shot an even-par 72 in the first round, which put him 4 strokes off the pace. But he’s where he wants to be to make a push later this week, and he has no intentions of finishing anywhere but first after two years of coming just short.
Johnson, formerly of Walsh Jesuit and now a future Golden Flash with Kent State, has finished second or in a tie for second in this tournament two years running. To make it worse, the final round of last year’s tournament was canceled due to stormy conditions. Johnson would have had to play nearly perfect to catch Stow’s Ian Holt, who won the shortened tournament by 6 strokes, but he never got the chance. And it’s been eating at him ever since.
“Considering I finished second the last two years, that definitely puts a little more incentive behind the round,” Johnson said. “I’m keeping the past in my mind but not in a bad way. I’m using it as incentive to get the win this year.”
Johnson had to do some makeup work to stay within striking distance of two players from Toledo, John Mancinotti and Ben Silverman, who are not only staying with each other during the tournament but also matched each other’s score with 4-under-par 68s.
Johnson struggled with his putter on the front-9 and shot a 3-over 39, highlighted by three consecutive bogeys on hole Nos. 5, 6 and 7.
He made it up with a flurry at the end of his round. On the par-4 16th, Johnson hit a perfect lob wedge from 106 yards and put it in the cup for an eagle. He then birdied No. 17 and nearly birdied 18. He ended up back to even par for the round, which was the plan.
“The goal was to not give anything back and fall over par,” Johnson said. “Once I did that, though, I didn’t worry. I knew I could get it back. I wanted to get back to even and I did, so it’s a good momentum booster for tomorrow.”
Johnson said he feels that if he can find the bottom of the cup a bit more with his putter, he can contend with the Toledo twosome.
“I had a lot of 10-footers just missing,” he said. “I made a couple but I need to knock those in the next two days and I’ll be good.”
Aurora’s Alex Avalon and Brunswick’s Justin Roth each shot 4-over 76s.
Nielsen leads girls
Kent Roosevelt sophomore Kory Nielsen is tied for the lead on the girls’ side after the first round, as she shot a clean 2-over-par 74 on Tuesday.
Nielsen’s front- and back-9 were nearly identical. In each, she bogeyed back-to-back holes early and recovered with a late birdie, one on the par-5 No. 9 and one on the par-4 No. 16.
Nielsen will enter today’s second round tied with Jacinta Pikunas of Youngstown and Madison Mullins of Sandusky.
Her sister, Kasey Nielsen, a senior at Kent Roosevelt, shot a 6-over 78 and is in 12th place.
Alice Ho of Wadsworth is 1 shot back of her after finishing with a 79.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.