Chase Johnson and his father spent extra time putting golf balls Tuesday night at J.E. Good Park Golf Course.
The additional practice paid off Wednesday.
Johnson, who will be a junior at Walsh Jesuit, shot a 4-under 67 to take the 5-stroke lead at the end of the first round in the 75th annual Phillip A. Rogers Good Park Junior Golf Tournament.
He made two eagles, two birdies, 12 pars and two bogeys to separate from the field of boys ages 13-18.
“Mentally and physically, I was feeling real good,” Johnson said. “I was nice and stretched out this morning. I was ready to start and prepared to go out there and post a good number.
“Once again, whenever my putting is working for me, that is usually when I post some good scores. My dad and I came out here last night and we worked for a good hour and a half on putting. Then I came out here today and I was putting lights out. Anything inside 10 feet, I made almost every time. I had 23 putts. I average about 28 or 29 this year.”
Cheryl and Mel Johnson proudly watched their 16-year-old son navigate the 6,262-yard layout.
Johnson, a Kent State University recruit who was a Division I state qualifier last season, said he reached 11 greens in regulation and hit 8-of-14 fairways. Eagles on Nos. 12 and 14 were Tuesday’s highlight.
“On No. 12, it was a short par-4,” Johnson said. “I was stuck in between taking a full 3-wood or a cut-driver. I choked up on the driver and hit a little cut to about 20 feet right of the pin and then knocked it in from there.
“Then on No. 14, a par-5, I ripped it. I hit a big drive that went probably around 330 yards or so. I was about 155 yards to the flag, and hit a pitching wedge to within 20 feet and drained another putt.”
Johnson, a Barberton resident, made birdies on Nos. 3 and 15. He sits atop the championship flight, which will have 37 players going into the final two days of competition.
“I feel I should be able to keep my scores under 70 during the next two days,” Johnson said. “The course is playing difficult. It can get you if you are not hitting the right shots. Today, I was hitting the right shots. My short game was good. As long as I can keep up my putting, I will be able to keep my scores under 70.
“I have to give kudos to my dad for working with me on my putting. I have a lot of support behind me from my parents. I also have to give a shout out to my coaches from high school golf, Mike Richetto and Joe Denton. They support me phenomenally.”
Nevada Lemon, a 2012 Rootstown graduate and Malone recruit, posted a 72. Solon resident Luke Liberatore and Mount Vernon native Matt O’Hara are tied for third at 73.
Copley’s Michael Dugan, Smithville’s Nolan Tisch and Columbia Station’s Joey Krecic tallied 74s and tied for fifth.
Thompson tops for girls
Claymont senior Shelby Thompson, 17, is leading the girls 16-18 field after shooting a 2-over 73. There are 23 girls in the division.
“I started off with a bogey, which led to a little disappointment,” Thompson said. “Then I went on a par streak for 10 holes straight. After that I had a couple of bogeys on the back and then birdied the last hole. It was a pretty boring and basic round, but effective.”
Thompson said she used solid driver and 8-iron shots to set up the birdie on No. 18. She placed sixth in the Division II state championship last year.
Jennah Romansky of Cuyahoga Falls is second after shooting a 75. Akron resident Ashley Yarbrough, who attends Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown, is third with a 77.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.