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Graham feeling sunny at HP Boys

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By DAN MIROCHA
Assistant Editor

ORLANDO, Fla. – Wesley Graham was drenched in sweat Thursday after the third round of the HP Boys Junior Championship on another 90-degree day in Central Florida.

Graham stepped into the shade, took off his hat, wiped his brow, and took a deep breath. He had just posted a second consecutive 5-under 67 at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, which put him in the lead at 7-under 209, two shots ahead of Mu Hu going into tomorrow’s final round.

“Now I’m on cruise control for tomorrow,” Graham said. “If I don’t make a lot of bogeys, I’m going to win.”

It’s easy to detect tenacity when talking to Graham. This is a 17-year-old who has high expectations of himself.

“I just feel like I belong here,” Graham said. “Actually, I always felt like I belonged here.”

Graham, of Port Orange, Fla., is playing his first full season on the AJGA circuit and is quickly making a name for himself. He played the last two summers primarily on the Florida Junior Tour where he was “winning most every tournament.”

Last June, Graham got a crack at his first AJGA open event, the Mirasol Junior Championship. He tied for fourth and notched the event’s low final round, a 67.

“I tied Peter Uihlein there,” he said with a smile.

A month later, Graham reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Junior Amateur, where he was defeated by the defending champion, Kevin Tway. The impressive finish raised his confidence to an all-time high and put him on a fast track from the minor leagues to the big leagues.

“The Junior was the biggest tournament for me to date,” Graham said. “Before then I was unknown to everybody. And after, everybody knew who I was. It opened all the doors for me.”

Graham wasted little time capitalizing on his AJGA exemption. A week later, he won thee Burgett H. Mooney, Jr. Rome Classic. In November, he advanced to the second round of match play at the Polo Golf Junior Classic.

In April of this year, he tied for second at the Mizuno Junior. Next came a T-8 at Thunderbird. And although he struggled to a T-52 at the FootJoy in May, Graham rebounded with a tie for 10th at the Rolex Tournament of Champions earlier this month.

“I’ve haven’t been playing in as many big tournaments as long these kids have, but I feel like I’m just as good as they are,” Graham said. “It’s just that I haven’t been out there as long as them.”

Graham has jumped to No. 6 in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings. Three weeks ago, he committed to Florida State for 2008, where he plans to room with good friend Drew Kittleson. Next week Graham will play in the U.S. Junior, then he’s off to Tennessee to play in his first Canon Cup.

“Honestly, I don’t think it’s sunk in yet,” said his mother Tammy. “He’s just having fun and playing golf.”

Graham came to the par-5 16th Thursday tied with Hu at 5 under par. Yesterday, Graham hit 3-iron from 220 yards and made eagle. After his drive today, he had just 195 yards left. He hit 6-iron to 12 feet, setting up another eagle putt. Graham put a good stroke on the downhill putt and when his ball rolled into the cup, Graham pumped his fist in celebration.

“It just dove in at the last second,” said Graham, whose eagle put him two shots ahead of Hu.

Graham now has his first lead heading into the final round of an AJGA invitational. He will start tomorrow’s final round on top of a field of players that just a year ago he was hoping to contend with. However, there aren’t any butterflies in Graham’s stomach.

“I might be nervous about some stuff,” he said. “But most of the time, when you put a golf club in my hands, it all goes away.”

• • •

Dan Mirocha is a Golfweek assistant editor. To reach him e-mail dmirocha@golfweek.com.

Scores with relation to par from the third round of the HP Boys Junior Championship, played July 19 at the par-72, 7,189-yardBay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando, Fla.:

1. Wesley Graham 75-67-67–209
-7 2. Mu Hu 70-70-71–211
-5 3. Mark Johnson 70-75-67–212
-4 3. Scott Langley 71-71-70–212
-4 3. Patrick Reed 73-69-70–212
-4 6. Joseph Barr 72-70-71–213
-3 7. David Chung 72-75-67–214
-2 8. Jae Han Chun 72-71-72–215
-1 9. Lion Kim 76-70-70–216
E 9. Adam Sumrall 75-71-70–216
E 9. Sang Yi 72-71-73–216
E 12. David Dannelly 71-77-69–217 + 1 12. Ravi Patel 74-73-70–217 + 1 14. Blayne Barber 74-70-74–218 + 2 15. Tommy Chung Hao Mou 78-72-69–219 + 3 15. Sam Chien 71-77-71–219 + 3 15. Cameron Peck 72-75-72–219 + 3 15. Bo Andrews 72-71-76–219 + 3 15. Adam Wennerstrom 70-74-75–219 + 3 20. Bobby Wyatt 73-75-72–220 + 4 20. Zeyu He 74-71-75–220 + 4 20. Sihwan Kim 71-73-76–220 + 4 23. Michael Jae Woo Im 74-73-74–221 + 5 23. Spencer Cole 73-73-75–221 + 5 23. Derek Chang 72-73-76–221 + 5 26. Minghao Wang 74-76-72–222 + 6 26. Robbie Ziegler 74-74-74–222 + 6 26. Byeong-hun An 74-73-75–222 + 6 26. Bryan Harris 74-74-74–222 + 6 30. Geoffrey Shaw 77-74-72–223 + 7 30. Travis Klutts 73-77-73–223 + 7 30. Jonathan Randolph 74-75-74–223 + 7 30. Logan Blondell 72-75-76–223 + 7 30. Josh Jones 73-72-78–223 + 7 35. Kelly Kraft 77-74-73–224 + 8 35. David Zickler 72-78-74–224 + 8 35. Bruce Woodall 73-75-76–224 + 8 35. Gregor Main 74-72-78–224 + 8 39. John Peterson 74-77-74–225 + 9 39. Andrew Colvin 77-74-74–225 + 9 39. Austin Graham 72-79-74–225 + 9 39. Daniel Meggs 72-77-76–225 + 9 43. Jonathan Fly 74-77-77–228 + 12 43. Stephen Carney 72-75-81–228 + 12 45. Jed Dirksen 73-77-79–229 + 13 • • •

Missed the cut

46. Alex Kang 75-77–152 + 8 46. Dominic Bozzelli 74-78–152 + 8 46. Jeffrey Kang 76-76–152 + 8 46. Kyle Kopsick 75-77–152 + 8 46. Cameron Wilson 77-75–152 + 8 46. Jace Long 75-77–152 + 8 46. James Byrd 72-80–152 + 8 53. Drew Page 78-75–153 + 9 53. Aaron Fitzpatrick 80-73–153 + 9 53. Brinson Paolini 77-76–153 + 9 53. Jay Vandeventer 76-77–153 + 9 53. Hyun Seok Lim 75-78–153 + 9 53. Christopher Walker 78-75–153 + 9 59. John Hahn 78-76–154 + 10 59. Tom Lo 81-73–154 + 10 61. Parker Houston 75-80–155 + 11 61. Alex Shi Yup Kim 76-79–155 + 11 61. Nicholas Mullhaupt 77-78–155 + 11 61. Patrick Barrett 80-75–155 + 11 65. Sean Ouhyun Yoon 79-77–156 + 12 65. Alex Frankel 81-75–156 + 12 65. Brandon Ellis 76-80–156 + 12 65. Brian Scherer 81-75–156 + 12 69. Phillip Choi 80-77–157 + 13 70. Matthew Thompson 78-80–158 + 14 70. Joe David 77-81–158 + 14 72. Drew Ernst 77-85–162 + 18 72. Brandon Ramirez 79-83–162 + 18 72. Niko Bain 81-81–162 + 18 75. Michael Boyd 80-83–163 + 19 76. Andrew Cho 84-80–164 + 20

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