Just before dusk at 9 p.m. EDT, hometown hero Campbell Kremer put on quite a light show at Valhalla Golf Club.
Kremer used his homegrown knowledge of the course to fire a 6-under par 66 to tie Ryan Grauman, 18, of Alamo, California, for the first-round lead. Kremer, 17, is not only a native son to Louisville. He is the great-grandson of Valhalla Founder Dwight Gahm.
“This is special,” said Kremer, who rallied with a 30-yard chip-in on No. 6 (his 15th hole) that accentuated a round that saw seven birdies and one bogey. “I’ve been out here since I was one years old. I know a lot of the people. I have a lot of confidence…I’m sure he’s looking down and is pretty proud.”
Grauman played a clean, bogey free round, as he rode six birdies to share first-round honors. Hitting 83 percent of his greens in regulation, Grauman needed 27 putts along the way to the top of the leaderboard. He recorded back-to-back birdies on Hole Nos. 6 and 7 (his 15th and 16th holes played).
“I know that you can’t win the tournament in the first round , but I put myself in good position for the next three days,” said Grauman, who will enroll in St. Mary’s College in California in August. “[On] six, I hit a great approach, left a 12-footer and gave myself an opportunity. Seven played to my strategy. I played them how I wanted to.”
After a morning shower delayed play for 90 minutes, the course was primed for low scores on the spectacular Par-72 7,072-yard layout, which ranks among the Top 100 courses in America.
A pack of players are within close range, starting with Luke Kluver, 18, of Norkfolk, Nebraska, who is in third place, one-shot off the pace, with a 5-under par 67. Kluver had an adventurous round with seven birdies, an eagle, a double bogey and a bogey.
The eagle was a thing of beauty, as he went for glory from 220 yards out on No. 18, not realizing the pin was sitting near the edge of the green. He left himself a 15-foot putt that he drilled home.
Kluver recently played in the Pinacle Bank Championship on the Web.com Tour. “I learned from the Web.com players to stay patient through the whole event.”
Defending Champion Akshay Bhatia, 16, of Wake Forest, North Carolina—who owns a large part of the Championship’s record book—is within striking range, after a nifty 4-under par 68 and a five-way tie for third.
His round ended with an impressive birdie on No. 18. Sitting in the grass valley below the green, Bhatia hit a flop shot to 10-feet, landing nearly where he paced off his distance moments earlier. His putt softly rolled in off the back edge into the cup.
“That was a sick up and down,” said Bhatia. “It is kind of cool being a year since I won the Championship because it kick-started my really good play. This event is really special.”
Also sitting in the tie for fourth place is South Korean Jaewon Park, 17, who resides in St. Mary, Florida. Starting on the back nine, Park’s round featured three consecutive birdies on Holes No. 17, 18 and 1 (his eighth, ninth and 10th holes played).
Joining the group in fourth are Troy Taylor, 17, of Westerville, Ohio; William Moll, 17, of Houston; and Cole Ponich, 18, of Farmington, Utah. A parade of seven players are tied for ninth place, three shots back.
One of golf’s major championships for juniors, the Boys Junior PGA Championship is where the best in the world get their start including: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, 2017 PGA Champion and Louisville native Justin Thomas, 2018 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Trevor Immelman, Justin Leonard, David Toms and Scott Verplank.
The second round will start on Wednesday, Aug. 1, with tee times beginning at 7:50 a.m. Following the round, a cut will be made, with the top 70 players and ties advancing.
For more information, please visit JuniorPGAChampionship.com.