E.A. Sports Today

Okins shares lead

Rising White Plains senior stands at 9-under 135 through 36 holes in Boys State Junior, shares one-shot lead, plays at 8:40 a.m. Thursday

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
SCOTTSBORO – Two weeks ago Kenny Okins changed his putting set-up and his mental approach to the game and it’s made all the difference in his biggest tournament of the year.
Okins posted his second straight round in the 60s Wednesday and will take a carry of the lead into Thursday’s final round of the 75th Alabama Boys State Junior Championship at Goose Pond Colony.
The rising White Plains senior shot a 4-under-par 68 for a 36-hole total of 9-under 135. He shares the lead with Max Johnson of Fairhope. They hold a one-shot lead over Gregory Jones of Mobile.
“I’ve had a rough summer so to come out and play well in this tournament feels great,” Okins said. “I gained a lot of distance and it messed with me a little bit. I haven’t placed in any other tournament so to come out and do this is nice.
But it’s been more than a physical change that has led to his success.

“I’ve completely changed my mentality going to the course and held my composure really well, even the bad holes I’ve had,” he said. “I let the game come to me. The last tournament I played good in the game, but I pushed too hard and just couldn’t get anything out of it. I just came out here with no expectations, just play the best golf I could.”
Case in point. The old Kenny Okins would have been sent reeling by the double bogey he took on No. 4 of the Lake Course Wednesday. Instead, he regrouped and played his last 14 holes in 5-under-par. He played the back in 4-under and missed a six-foot birdie putt on 18 for what would have been the overnight lead.
“A year ago the double would’ve derailed him,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “But now … he’s grown up a lot. That didn’t faze him a bit.”
First-round leader Mark Sawyer of Centre has known Okins for several years and said he’s always been a steady player. They played together each of the first two rounds here and Sawyer said it’s been “by far the best golf I’ve seen him play.”
Sawyer, meanwhile, didn’t have such luck. The rising Cedar Bluff junior followed his opening-round 65 – the low round of the tournament so far – with a hard-luck 76. It left him in a tie for 20th at 3-under 141.
The round was “totally opposite” of the day before. He hit 17 greens and made eight birdies in the stress-free opening round, but hit only half as many greens Wednesday and had one birdie.
“It was just a tough day all around, but mainly I struggled with the irons and the putter,” he said. “The round was full of bad breaks.”
They started right from the beginning. His opening tee shot went through the left rough and rolled up against a tree root protruding from the ground. Similar misfortune came to him on the fourth hole. He played the rest of the round in 1-over and the back even.
“Today was just totally opposite,” he said. “I didn’t hit very many greens, and couldn’t get anything going. I couldn’t get any momentum.”
Sawyer’s approach to Thursday’s final round will be “very similar” to the plan he took the first day. Okins, meanwhile, plans to stick the same approach that has gotten him to the top of the leaderboard.
“I’m a little nervous coming back, but I’m not going to push too hard and I’ll let whatever happens happen,” he said. “If I try to shoot a score I could not play good. I’ll let it come to me.”
Wesley Jenkins, one of Okins’ White Plains teammates, nearly completed a back-nine charge to make the cut. He needed to shoot 5-under on the back to play in the final round, but came up one stroke short. He shot 70, but finished at 147. 
Calhoun County players Peyton Bradley (Sacred Heart), Gage Miller (White Plains) and Nick Ledbetter (Weaver) also missed the cut. Bradley shot 75 and finished at 153. Miller shot 78 and finished at 157. Ledbetter shot 81 and finished at 157.

Alabama Boys State Junior
Goose Pond Colony, Scottsboro
(Top 10)
Kenny Okins, Anniston 67-68—135
Msx Johnson, Fairhope 66-69—135
Gregory Jones, Mobile 66-70—136
Jones Free, Selma 71-66—137
Trent Trousdale, Huntsville 68-69—137
Chase Kyes, Birmingham 72-66—138
Thomas Fischer, Birmingham 69-69—138
Eric Boutwell, Russellville 69-69—138
Davis Aaron, Northport 68-60—138
Cole Imig, Birmingham 71-68—139
Justin Olive, Florence 69-70—139
Nick Dunlap, Huntsville 69-70—139
Hayden Carner, Birmingham 68-71—139

You must be logged in to post a comment Login