COSTA MESA — Incoming Corona del Mar High freshman John Hong verified what at least three golfers in the 22nd Costa Mesa junior championship said was the key to playing well on Costa Mesa Country Club's Mesa Linda course.
"The best part was my putting; I made a lot of putts," Hong said after a four-over-par 74 Wednesday that included three birdies. Hong sits one shot off the lead in the boys' 14-15 age group heading into today's final round.
"I sliced some shots and had to get up and down a lot today, but I managed to do that," said Hong, among a handful of Newport-Mesa golfers in the field.
Players will tee off beginning at 7 a.m. today, with the leaders in the final groups.
Newport Beach resident Alyaa Abdulghany carries a two-shot lead into today's round of the girls' 12-14 division following a one-under 69.
Newport Beach resident Chase Furey birdied four holes en route to a 72, which places him in a tie for third in the boys' 12-13 group.
Chase Wheatley (73) from Corona del Mar is tied for seventh among 29 players in the boys' 16-18 group and Newport Beach's Amy Matsuoka (76) stands in sixth place in the girls' 12-14 division.
Both Matsuoka and Furey come off victories in their respective divisions Tuesday in the Kikkor Golf Championship Tuesday at Mile Square Golf Course in Fountain Valley. Matsuoka won by seven shots with an even-par 72.
"My putting and chipping were really good," Matsuoka said via phone about the round at Mile Square.
At Mesa Linda, she said chipping was the best part of her game in a round that included 12 pars and six bogeys.
"The course was playing harder because of the wind and different lies of the rough," Matsuoka said of Mesa Linda, which she played twice before. Of the greens, she said they were faster than normal and didn't break as much on some holes.
The remaining Newport-Mesa contingent includes: Casandra Stevenson (83; T-8th in girls' 15-18); Daniel Willett (75; tie for 14th in boys' 16-18); Brad Tapfer (76, T-17th in boys' 16-18); Courtland Alexander-Lee (80, T-10th in boys 14-15); Ian Fletcher (80, T-6th in boys' 12-13); Conner Davison (81, T-25th in boys' 16-18); Max Meisenheimer (82, 27th in boys' 16-18); : Casandra Stevenson (83; T-8th in girls' 15-18); John Harzan (85, 28th in boys' 16-18); Alexander Yang (36, 2nd in boys' 9-11).
The course yielded just five under-par rounds among all divisions.
Aaron Strockis of San Diego shot one of those rounds, a two-under 68 in the first threesome out. Strockis and Tim Hoang share the lead in the boys' 16-18 group.
"The greens were running smooth and true," Strockis said. "To do well, you've got to make putts when you have the opportunity."
The practice putting green could be a popular place today.