WILLIAMSTOWN -- The PGA Junior Series made its first appearance at Taconic Golf Club on Tuesday, with a 74-player field representing 10 states and four foreign countries.

So what were the odds that the boys' and girls' leaders after day one in the 54-hole event would be from the same city? Evidently, pretty good.

Daniel Martinez and Maya Walton, both from the golf hotbed of Austin, Texas, played as if they were born and raised in the Berkshires on a day when Taconic's thick rough and speedy, undulating greens sent many scores soaring.

Martinez was the only golfer to break par, shooting 2-under-par 69 to take a five-shot lead over Christopher Gay, of Bronxville, N.Y., in the boys' 15-18 age division. Walton fired a 2-over 73 for a three-shot edge over Alex Wright, of Midlothian, Va., in the girls competition.

In the boys' 12-14 division, Austin Fox, of nearby Delmar, N.Y., shot a 4-over 75 to lead by two over two other New York state golfers, Thomas Davis and Kyle Gilroy.

Considering their scores, it's no surprise Martinez and Walton were pleased with their short games.

"I made a lot of putts and didn't put myself in much trouble," said the 15-year-old Martinez. "I'm used to fast greens. I played in the Western Junior two weeks ago and the greens there were pretty similar to these."

In the 16-year-old Walton's case, a practice round led to the proper game plan -- keep the ball below the hole to avoid downhill putts.


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"I hit it really well and made a couple of putts," said Walton, who birdied the first two holes. "I think I left every approach shot but one short. These greens are tricky if you're above the hole."

Even though the eight-tournament PGA Junior Series has already made a stop in Texas, Tuesday was the season debut in it for both Texans, who each had different reasons for playing in the Northeast.

"We have family in Edison, N.J., and I had heard that this was one of the best college courses in the country," Martinez said.

Walton said it fit her schedule best -- she plays regularly in American Junior Golf Association events and will try to qualify for this year's U.S. Junior Girls tournament in a couple of weeks -- but that apparently wasn't the only reason she and her father made their way to the Berkshires.

"I'm not like a lot of Texas golfers. I really like the courses in the north," she said. "There's not a lot of rough in Texas, but I like it."

Likes the rough? Who likes the rough?

"I'm pretty consistent with my driver," explained Walton, who figures that gives her an edge on those stray from the fairway more often.

The leaders, like many in the field, are focused on the goal of playing Division I college golf -- even though Martinez (Class of 2017) and Walton (Class of 2016) have several years to make a decision.

"I've made a few visits," Martinez confirmed.

"I've visited Michigan, [North Carolina] and [Virginia]," Walton said.

Many of the juniors who travel to PGA series and AJGA events -- including most of the foreign golfers in Williamstown -- attend golf academies. That was the case this past semester for Walton.

"I attended Jim McLean's Academy [in Fort Worth, Texas] and it was great," she said. "I was surrounded by a lot of great players."

There were more than a few players at Taconic sporting shirts from the IMG Academy in Florida, which boasts that 60 percent of its graduates (it has programs for eight sports including golf) get Division I scholarships. Among the IMG group is Wright, Walton's closest pursuer after a 76.

The 16-year-old, who is over 6 feet tall and bombs the ball off the tee, is also looking to play Division I golf, according to her father, Frank.

"We exposed her to all the sports -- soccer, basketball and volleyball -- and she enjoys golf," dad said. "As long as she's having fun, we will support her."

Play continues today, with tee times from 8-9:50 a.m.

To contact Richard Lord:
rlord@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6236.