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Visalia’s Todd Drops Into Junior World Lead : He Shoots 69 for Co-Lead in Tournament Debut; Record, Hole-In-One Other Highlights

As Joe Acosta reached the 18th hole of the first round of the 22nd Optimist Junior World Championship, someone told him that Matt Todd had finished a round of 69 just moments before.

“I was surprised,” said Acosta, who shot 73. “Matt usually doesn’t play that well.”

Acosta should know. He and Todd have been friends and teammates at Visalia’s Redwood High for two seasons.

This is Todd’s first Junior World Championship, and he is tied for the lead with Mexico’s Rafael Vazquez in the boys’ age 15-17 division, two strokes ahead of Hesperia’s David Purser and Japan’s Kazuyoshi Yonekura.

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The 69s by Todd and Vazquez; a 71 by Nicole Horner in the girls’ 15-17 division; a hole-in-one by 16-year-old Jennifer Choi and a record-tying single round of 57 by 12-year-old Carmellete Villaroman highlighted Tuesday’s first round of the tournament, which annually attracts the top junior players in the world. This year, there are about 740 golfers from 32 countries and 35 states.

“To tell you the truth,” said Todd, 16. “I wasn’t hitting the ball real well, marginal at best. But I was putting awesome.”

Putting seemed to be the difference Tuesday on Torrey Pines’ 6,727-yard, par-72 South Course, with a strong wind blowing off the Pacific and a high rough lining the fairways.

And Todd had his putting game on target, exemplified by a 70-footer he drained for an eagle on the par-five, 520-yard sixth hole.

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“No matter what happens,” Todd said. “this will be a great experience for me. I’ve never shot like this before. Not in a tournament like this.”

On Torrey Pines’ North Course, Horner’s three-under 71 was good for a one-stroke lead over Rialto’s 17-year-old Brandie Burton, Golf Digest’s No. 2-ranked junior in 1988 and the 1987 Junior World champion.

Earlier this spring as a junior, Horner, 17, became the first girl to win the high school championship of Honolulu, which does not offer girls’ golf.

Choi, of Beverly Hills, made her first hole-in-one on the par-three, 154-yard 12th, using a five wood. “I couldn’t believe it went in,” she said. “I couldn’t see it, but I was told it landed about two feet from the pin and just skipped in.” On the next hole, Choi hit her drive out of bounds.

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Islanders dominated play in the boys’ 11-12 division on the par-58 Pine Glen Course (2,600 yards) at Singing Hills. Shannon Tanoue of Kancoho, Hawaii, Juan Rocha of the Philippines and Andrew Wen of Guam lead with 56s. Rocha won the 10-and-under division in 1987 and finished fifth in ’86.

The 11-12 division standings perhaps best indicated the international flavor of the tournament. Six of the top 10 places are occupied by foreign players. Carlsbad’s Jeff Camara, tied for 11th, was the highest local player.

In the girls’ 11-12s, Villaroman’s 2-under 57 tied the single-round record held by Carolyn Hill (1971) and Marty Stewart (1973). Hill and Stewart set their marks at Mission Bay.

Villaroman, of the Philippines, finished third last year. She leads by three strokes over Gaylen Matsumura of Lihue, Hawaii.

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Paul Spangler of San Diego and Boyd Summerhays of Farmingtom, Utah, share a one-stroke lead in the boys’ 10-and-under division. Both shot 5-under 51s on the 1,426-yard Presidio Hills course.

On the same course, the girls’ 10-and-under division is shaping up as a repeat of 1988, when Hawaiians Elisa Au and Natalie Nakamura dominated. Defending champion Au, with a four-under 56, has a one-stroke lead over Nakamura, last year’s runner-up. In third, four strokes behind, is San Diego’s Angie Yoon, who finished fifth last year.


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