Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

SPORTS >> Smith, two Bentons in hunt for player of the year honors

By KELLY FENTON
Leader sports editor

Heading into the final event of the junior golf season, Cabot’s Hunter Smith and Colby Benton hold their fates in their own hands in the battle for Arkansas State Golf Association junior player-of-the-year honors.

Smith entered the Hot Springs Junior Stroke Play tournament last week holding a 20-point lead over Benton. The two tied for fourth after shooting a two-day total of 147. But Fort Smith’s Drew Comer, who began the tourney 180 points behind Smith, won the event, while Conway’s Ethan King, who started 190 points in back of Smith, finished second. The points-standings had not been updated on the ASGA Web site as of Tuesday.

All four are participating in the ASGA Mountain Valley Junior Stroke Play, which began yesterday and will conclude on Thursday at Texarkana Country Club.

Smith and Benton held their ground against their closest rivals in the opening round. Smith fired a 76, while Benton shot 78. Comer turned in a 75 and King came in at 78.

Rowdy Garrett of Foulke leads after shooting 69, but Garrett is not a threat for player-of-the-year honors.

While Smith and Benton enjoy sizable leads, the Mountain Valley stroke play tournament is considered one of the two junior majors and the winner earns 250 points.

Smith has built his points with three wins to go along with a second-place and two third-place finishes.

In the men’s division, it appears to be coming down to a battle between Cabot’s Nicklaus Benton, brother of Colby, and Pine Bluff’s Wes McNulty. McNulty has a two-point lead over Benton with eight tournaments remaining. But it may be difficult for Benton to hold on with his college golf career beginning at UALR later this month. Three of those events will be played after August.