Cape Coral’s Brittany Shin may not be in the field this year at the Nolan Henke-Patty Berg Junior Masters, but that didn’t matter to Bonita Springs’ Kim Egozi. Despite the defending girls champion’s absence, the Estero High sophomore was flanked by plenty of talent Wednesday.
Egozi was grouped with a murderous row of Southwest Florida golfers in Naples’ Emily Black and Sydney Shrader, who were the Naples Daily News’ Co-Girls Golfers of the Year last fall. The trio accounted for three of the top four scores on Day 1 of the three-day tournament at River Hall Country Club in Alva.
Black, a Naples High product, and Naples’ Anna-Marie Kuenzle, a Seacrest Country Day graduate who will play at High Point University this fall, carry the lead into the second day of play after firing even-par 72s.
Egozi trails the pair by two strokes and Shrader, a University of North Florida signee, by a stroke after a solid round around the greens as she carded a 2-over 74.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster playing with them, especially when I can play close to their level and keep up with their games,” Egozi said of Black and Shrader. “They’re really good players, and I know they can go low. Just being able to keep up with them is a really good feeling.”
Nearly automatic from 6-feet and in, Egozi, who finished with a birdie and three bogeys, stayed away from three-putting any holes and drained a number of 10- and 15-foot putts to save par and keep pace.
“I just need to keep doing what I’m doing,” Egozi said. “I just went shot by shot and didn’t think about the past. If I made a bad shot, I didn’t try to think ahead and say, ‘I need to birdie this hole.’”
The top of the leaderboard will tee off later Thursday morning, meaning Egozi, who prefers playing fast, must stay focused and not let her mind wander.
Black, a 2015 high school regional champion who took eighth at the Class 2A state tournament last fall, had a rough start to her round with two bogeys on the front nine. Able to keep a few questionable drives in play, she settled in and birdied a par 4 and a par 5 on the back nine.
Headed to Notre Dame as a student in the fall, Black played just once previously at River Hall. Not getting a chance to play a practice round, she texted a few friends to get the lay of the land.
“I always like playing on fast greens,” Black said. “I believe they had it at a 9.5 on the Stimpmeter. That’s pretty fast. It’s especially nice if you get the right line then the speed is easy to get with fast greens.”
Tournament director Robin Albright called this year’s girls field “the deepest and most competitive” she’s seen.
The level of competition did little to rattle Black.
“I really just bring it back to having a good time,” Black said. “Since I know a lot of the better players here, it’s nice to kind of be relaxed with them because we all know that we’re here to compete. At the same time, we all know each other and we’re here to have fun as well.”
Fort Myers’ Hallianne Hobson, a Bishop Verot High grad and Samford University signee, carded a four-over 76 to end the day in fifth.
In the Boys 16-18 division, Naples’ Sam Hershoff, a Barron Collier High senior, turned in a first-round 74 and leads Estero’s Luke Farmer, a 2016 News-Press Boys Golfer of the Year finalist, and Mason Kiernan by two strokes. Meanwhile, Fort Myers’ Mark Winski Jr. and Bobby Hurst sit in fourth after carding 77s.
Collier County placed four golfers in the top six of the Boys 13-15 leaderboard with Naples’ James Tureskis leading the way with a 75 followed by Naples’ Joey Burke (76) and Chad Tracy (78). Naples’ Tyler Tamerro (81) is in a three-way tie for fourth with Fort Myers’ Tyler Humphrey and Josh Mesmer.
Nolan Henke-Patty Berg Junior Masters
at River Hall Country Club
1. James Tureskis, Naples 75
2. Joey Burke, Naples 76
3. Chad Tracy, Naples 78
4. Tyler Humphrey, Fort Myers 81
4. Josh Mesmer, Fort Myers 81
4. Tyler Stamerro, Naples 81
7. Jarred Jordan, Cape Coral 84
8. Landen Fiore, Fort Myers 85
8. Trevor Hemphrey, Fort Myers 85
10. Matthew Wadding, Fort Myers 92
11. Mason Dozer, Estero 93
11. Jacob Vetter, Port Charlotte 93
13. JC Antonmattei, Bonita Springs 94
14. Gregory Moore, Cape Coral 95
15. Jarrett Smith, Fort Myers 98
1. Sam Hershoff, Naples 74
2. Luke Farmer, Estero 76
2. Mason Kiernan, Cape Coral 76
4. Mark Iwinski Jr., Fort Myers 77
4. Bobby Hurst, Fort Myers 77
6. Zack Kubik, North Port 78
6. Adam Beatty, Naples 78
6. Jake Haas, Punta Gorda 78
9. Blake Wheeler, Fort Myers 81
9. Grant Post, Naples 81
9. Truman Bethel, Punta Gorda 81
9. Peter George, Naples 81
13. Michael Chesnover, Fort Myers 83
13. Alex Hussey, Fort Myers 83
13. Jonah Manning, Fort Myers 83
16. Dat Phan, Lehigh Acres 84
17. Joey Sagi, Cape Coral 85
18. Aaron Puckett, Fort Myers 87
19. Zach Robbins, Fort Myers 89
19. Tainter Bundy, Fort Myers 89
21. Andrew Diers, Naples 93
22. Jacob Kalisik, Fort Myers 94
1. Emily Black, Naples 72
1. Anna-Marie Kuenzle, Naples 72
3. Sydney Shrader, Naples 73
4. Kim Egozi, Bonita Spring 74
5. Hallianne Hobson, Fort Myers 76
6. Annika Church, Naples 78
7. Haley Danford, Longwood 79
7. Jill Iten, Einsiedeln, Switzerland 79
9. Ryanne Jackson, Seminole 81
10. Gabriella Vetter, Port Charlotte 82
11. Becky Davis, North Port 85
11. Vivian Guite, Naples 85
11. Kelli Kragh, Estero 85
14. Sophie Shrader, Naples 87
15. Mia Nelson, Cape Coral 91
16. Autumn Nance, Alva 92
17. Amanda Higginbotham, LaBelle 97
18. Talia Rodino, Fort Myers 100
19. Emily Higginbotham, LaBelle 106