Leader Blues

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

SPORTS>> Cabotís Benton holding on to lead

Leader sportswriter

His summer on the greens has been dazzling so far, but Nicklaus Bentonís quest to repeat as Arkansas State Golf Association Junior Player of the Year is still unsettled.

Benton is currently in good position to repeat as the ASGA Junior Player of the Year, but hasnít clinched it yet. He is currently in a dogfight with Austen Moix and Sylvan Hills standout Nick Zimmerman at the Ben I. Mayo tournament in Fort Smith. Conwayís
Moix carried a one-stroke lead over the local pair heading into Tuesday play, but the battle between Moix and Benton will not conclude at the end of this tournament.

Moix has the most ASGA wins this season with four, compared to three by Benton, but Bentonís historic win at the Junior Match Play tournament at Foxwood in mid-June gave him a leg up in the season standings with 250 points to lead.

That, along with subsequent tournaments, brings the totals to 611 for Benton and 460 for Cook, but there are still several points-paying tournaments to go through the end of this month, according to ASGA spokeswoman Jenna Chadwick.

Moix looked poised to take Playerof the Year until the match play tournament at Foxwood. He finished second at the season-opening Greater Little Rock championship to Little Rockís Adam Carpenter after forcing a playoff. That, combined with an 11th place finish for Benton, put the Cabot player behind in his quest to repeat.

Moix extended his lead over Benton in the Joe Boone Memorial with another second-place effort, and won the Monticello junior stroke tournament, while Benton finished sixth.

It was another win for Moix at the Bruce Jenkins Memorial, and a second-place for Benton, but Benton began to make up ground on Moix at the Burns Park stroke tourney with a runner-up finish to Luke Carpenter.

Benton did not have the anticipated showdown with Moix at the Foxwood match play tournament, as Mitchell Zimmerman knocked out Moix in the quarterfinal round before Benton downed Zimmerman 2 and 1, setting up finals play against Matthew Mabrey.

The Chuck Morton Memorial junior stroke will take place at the Big Creek Country Club in Mountain Home starting tomorrow, followed by the Tom Milikan Memorial at the Harrison Country Club this weekend. Both of those events will give 80 points to the winner, 60 for second and 50 for third.

The following week starts out with the Hot Springs junior- stroke tournament on July 22-23, and the final in-state tourney, the ASGA Mountain Valley Junior Stroke Championship at Pine Bluff Country Club on July 29-31.

The junior-stroke championship is the tournament where Moix can make up the most ground on Benton, with 250 points for the winner, along with the Trusted Choice Big ĎIí tournament in North Carolina next month.

Moix, along with Alex Carpenter and Austin Cook, were the only three junior golfers from the state of Arkansas to qualify for the national event with top-three performances at the First Community Bank junior-stroke tournament at The Course at River Oaks in Searcy last week.

The Big ĎIí is the only points event remaining after the junior stroke in Pine Bluff. If Benton can escape from Pine Bluff with a lead of more than 80 points, he will repeat as Junior Player of the Year for the second straight season. If Moix can win the event, not only will he be recognized on the national stage, but will have pulled off a come from behind for player-of-the-year honors.