Hickman Junior in contention at City Golf Championship

Friday, August 7, 2009 | 3:34 p.m. CDT; updated 4:15 p.m. CDT, Friday, August 7, 2009
Cruz Buchanan watches a putt on 17 during the first round of the Kiwanis Golf Championship at the Lake of the Woods Golf Course on Friday.

COLUMBIA – Humid, gusty conditions did not stop Cruz Buchanan, 16, from shooting a two-over-par 73 in the first round of the Kiwanis Columbia Golf Championship Friday at Lake of the Woods Golf Course. Buchanan is the youngest golfer in this year’s city championship.

His score of 73 put him five strokes back of the leader, Chris Johnson’s 68. He currently is in fifth place.

The Columbia native shot his way to a solid start, hitting all fairways and greens on the first five holes. He finished the front nine on a high note, putting his approach shot on Hole No. eight and nine within five feet of the hole and tapping in easy birdie putts.

However, the back nine was not as kind to Buchanan. The increasing wind throughout the day proved challenging to competitors as gusts yanked drives and approach shots around like puppets with Mother Nature being the puppet master. Buchanan bogeyed three straights holes, 11-13, due to uncertainty pertaining to the wind.

“All day you had to hit feel shots and that was a game in itself,” said Buchanan. “I had to hit clubs I wouldn’t normally hit in situations and that threw me off.  The yardage was tough to judge. You got to feel it.”

No matter the advantage, the wind played a formidable obstacle on Friday. Francisco Trigo, who is an employee at Lake of the Woods Golf Course, struggled throughout the day with the wind. Despite his employment advantage, Trigo couldn’t put that experience to use.

“I didn’t really know where to aim, how many clubs up or down to use,” said Trigo. “It was gusty today which makes it even harder. There was no consistency.”

Buchanan rebounded with a score of one under after his bogey on 13. He had back -to-back pars on 14 and 15 before an eagle attempt rolled just short on 16. He tapped in for birdie to take him to plus two, his final score on Friday.

Buchanan began golfing at the age of four with his father, Mitch. Since he was in middle school, Buchanan has made a concentrated effort to improve his game, playing as much as he can and nearly everyday in the summer.

“I always want to shoot the best score. For this tournament, my main goal is to make Sunday (the championship round). I also want to give everyone out here a challenge, show them that I can hang.”

The Hickman junior did just that on Friday.

This is Buchanan’s second city championship. He qualified for this year’s city championship after making the cut at last year’s championship. Tournament chairman Hardeep Bhullar invited him to last year’s tournament because he was an “up and coming golfer in the community.”

“He’s (Buchanan) a very fine young man, very respectful to the game of golf,” said Bhullar. “He’s one of the most improved young golfers I’ve ever seen.”

Aside from the city championship, Buchanan has been busy on the summer golf circuit. On June 4th, he finished 3rd at the Callaway Junior World Qualifier held at Lockhaven Country Club in Alton, Illinois. Despite only sending the first place golfer to the Junior World Championships at Torrey Pines Country Club in La Jolla, California, Buchanan appreciated the experience.

“It proved to me where I stood as far as other amateur golfers. It was nice to see that all my recent hard work was paying off.”

Buchanan hopes that  hard work pays off the rest of the weekend. He’s optimistic about his chances for making his second consecutive cut as the tournament heads to A.L. Gustin Golf Course Saturday.

“I’m hitting the ball well. Gustin is my home course, so hopefully I can make some strokes up tomorrow.”

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