By Cam Huffman
Top level golfers from around the world gathered at The Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier Tuesday to begin their quest for a coveted title, just as they did in July for The Greenbrier Classic.
This week, though, the competitors were a little younger.
Ninety-nine golfers from 19 countries, all under the age of 21, were in White Sulphur Springs for the first of three rounds to determine the champions of the 17th Faldo Series Grand Final, the first held at The Greenbrier.
Phillipp Hermann of Austria, stole the show over the first 18 holes, carding six birdies on the way to a 3-under-par 67. That put the 16-year-old three shots ahead of a group of four at even-par 70 tied for second. Megan Khang, a 16-year-old from Massachusetts, and Sam Burns from Louisiana were in that group, along with defending champion Jack Singh Brar from England and Vitek Novak from the Czech Republic.
Those five were the only players to finish at even or below on a course that played almost nine strokes over par, on average. There were more scores of double-bogey or higher (174) than birdies (152).
Thadd Obecny of Wheeling was the top West Virginia golfer in the field. The 17-year-old finished the opening round with a 7-over 77 to tie for 35th place. Camden Moore of Spencer finished with an 11-over 81.
Today’s second round will begin with tee times at 8:30 a.m. The final group will take the course on No. 10 at 1:30 p.m.
The field is divided into five age groups, and three boys and two girls will receive a trophy and an exemption into the Asia Grand Final at Mission Hills Golf Club in China next March. The leading boy and girl will also be invited to play in a professional tour event. The title of Faldo Series champion will go to the player with the lowest gross score, regardless of age or gender.
Paul Kinnear of England leads the Boys’ Under-21 division at 71 after the first round. Philip Bootsma is second in that division with a 73, followed by Thomas Robson and Kieran Lynch at 74,
Singh-Brar, Novak and Burns are tied for the Boys’ Under-18 lead at 70, while Hermann has firm control of the Boys’ Under-16 division, four shots ahead of Brad Dalke and Conor Richards.
In the Girls’ Under-21 group, Sophie Keech of England leads the way at 75. Annabel Dimmock, Michaela Gasplmayr and Marie Lunackova are one shot back.
Khang, making her Faldo Series debut along with seven other U.S. golfers, leads the Girls’ Under-16 division, one shot ahead of Karolina Kohoutova and three shots better than Elizabeth Prior.
Established in 1996, the Faldo Series now includes 40 tournaments in 30 countries and more than 7,000 golfers participating each year. Rory McIlroy and Yani Tseng are among the past champions.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.