The 2019 American Junior Golf Association tournament held at Southpointe Golf Club features players from states as far as Hawaii and Arizona and countries all across the world.
Yet, after the tournament's first day of competition, it's a local golfer that is making noise on a crowded leaderboard.
Canonsburg's Rocco Salvitti, who will play at Central Catholic next year as a freshman, has played his way into a six-way tie for first place by shooting a 2-over 74, despite entering the tournament unranked.
“I played pretty good today, and I’ve been playing pretty good lately,” Salvitti said. “I don’t know if I was surprised. I was just playing good.”
Two more players from the Pittsburgh area joined Salvitti atop the leader board, including South Fayette's Luke Lestini. Lestini and Fox Chapel's Scott Bitar are two other golfers at 74 and tied for first. Allan Lockwood (Kentucky) Nicholas Lin (Toronto, Ontario) and Ryan Bilby (Follansbee, W.Va.) join the Pennsylvania kids in sharing the driver's seat.
Salvitti was particularly good on the front nine, where he shot a 33. Salvitti sunk three birdie putts and parred the remaining six holes. He birdied the fourth hole by making a short putt, then only needed two shots on the par-3 fifth and birdied again on No. 7.
He wasn’t as sharp on the back nine, where he had no birdies. Instead, Salvitti bogeyed four holes and ended with a 41.
“Once it came to the back nine, I struggled with my iron shots a little bit,” Salvitti said. “The greens got faster. I struggled with that. Besides that, I had a pretty good round.”
Salvitti said other than the green, which sped up as the day got hotter, there were differences in the back nine holes compared to the front.
“The back end is a little bit tighter and longer,” he said. “The greens are smaller. There’s more undulation.”
On the girl’s side, another local, Mt. Lebanon’s Lindsey Powanda, noticed a difference in the front and back nines. Powanda was even through the first nine, but on the back end she bogeyed four holes a double bogeyed hole No. 12 to finish with a 43. She finished her first round at 7-over 79, tied for 10th place.
“I feel that the back nine has a lot more demanding tee shots,” Powanda said. “The greens are just a lot more undulating. I feel like the front nine, it’s pretty straight forward, and then you get to the back nine, it’s like ‘oh, I’m exhausted now.’”
Powanda was one of two girls from the Pittsburgh area. South Fayette's Caroline McConnell is tied for 13th after shooting an 80.
“I know that this golf course is challenging for everybody, so I know I have a little bit of an advantage with Pennsylvania experience,” McConnell said.
Katie Li has a two-stroke lead in the girls tournament at 2-under 70. Chasing Li are Rylie Heflin (E), Daphne Chao (+2) and Sue Lee (+3).
Salvitti, Lestini and Bitar were three of nine players from the Western Pennsylvania for the boys.
“I’ve talked to a bunch of kids from everywhere,” Salvitti said. “I haven’t talked to anybody that I haven’t known from around here, so I’m getting to know a lot of people and (am) meeting a bunch of good players. It’s a good experience.”
For Salvitti, the key to maintaining his success through the next two days is straight forward.
“Keep the driver in the fairway and just keep hitting greens," he said. "From there, it’s pretty easy."