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Hole-in-one sparks Roanoke junior Faulkner to tie for the lead at Kenridge

Sunday, June 4, 2023
Hole-in-one sparks Roanoke junior Faulkner to tie for the lead at Kenridge

Nate Faulkner has spent the past couple of summers carving out a reputation as one of the top junior golfers in the state. Now, he’s taking on the big boys.

The Roanoke golfer woke up Sunday morning at the top of the leaderboard in the prestigious 85th Kenridge Invitational at Farmington Country Club, where some of the state’s best amateurs have put their name on the trophy. He shares the lead with Frank Alafoginis and Andrew Watson, none of whom have ever played in the final grouping at the Kenridge.

All three stand at 3-under-par 137 and hold a two-shot lead over a pack of contenders at 139: Ian Hildebrand, Nikita Gubenko, Scott Shingler, Tim Morris and opening-round leader Eddie Coffren V (scroll down here to see the full leaderboard). As predicted, the Farmington layout played tougher on Saturday, as only eight players cracked par, compared to 15 who turned in red numbers on Friday.

Faulkner, playing in only his second Kenridge, fired a 3-under 67 on Saturday, thanks in part to a hole-in-one on the downhill, par-3, 17th. The co-leader had an interesting finish over the last four holes, going bogey, birdie, ace, bogey.

It was Faulkner’s first sub-par round, not even smelling red numbers last year, and finally firing an even-par 70 on Friday.

Alafoginis, a 37-year-old from Naples, Fla., and a previous player at the University of Illinois, is right there with his junior co-leader, posting a strong back nine for a 2-under 68. A 2016 Mid-Atlantic Am Winner at Congressional who made it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Mid Am in 2018, Alafoginis birdied 13, 16 and 17 before suffering his only bogey of the day at the challenging, par-4 18th.

Meanwhile, Watson, who plays for the University of Lynchburg and was second-team All-ODAC this past season as a junior, scored three birdies and a bogey on the front, and then bogeyed the 11th hole before reeling off seven-straight pars to finish with a 1-under 69.

Leaders will be teeing off mid-afternoon, and the public is welcome to attend. Bleachers and other seating is available, along with a food truck and live scoring so that spectators can follow the leaders or their favorite golfers.

Coffren, who fired the low round of the tournament on Friday with a 65, faltered a bit Saturday with a 4-over 74. Meanwhile, don’t blame the leaders if they’re looking over their shoulders to keep an eye on Shingler, who has seemingly won every tournament in the state other than the Kenridge, one he surely wants to add to his trophy case. Also, Morris, who is a member at Farmington, is confident that he can pull off the win if he can stay in the mix.

Follow Jerry Ratcliffe on Twitter

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