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Team captain John Zelizney figures he can’t wait too much longer for his British Columbia golfers to pack home the first-place trophy from the Boys Junior America’s Cup competition.

“I’m getting on in age,” he said with a smile. “I’m 75 years old – I call it 3-over-par – and there’s nothing better I’d like to do than win gold.”

Zelizney’s young team took a step in that direction Tuesday, shooting a 3-under-par 213 on a sunny, windy day at Yellowstone Country Club to grab the first-round lead by two strokes over Oregon.

James Lepp, Greg Machtaler and Dustin Pewarchuk all fired 1-under 71s to give B.C. the early advantage. The Canadians have finished third the last two years and have been second on a couple of occasions during Zelizney’s nearly 30 years of involvement in America’s Cup play.

“They are the top notchers,” Zelizney said of this year’s players. “They’re the best in British Columbia and I knew we were going to have a real solid team.”

The 17-year-old Machtaler said the B.C. players joked and laughed their way through Monday’s practice round and carried that relaxed attitude into Tuesday’s play. The Canadians also avoided some of the wind with their early tee times.

“We played well and we got pretty lucky too by being out in the first groups when the wind wasn’t as strong,” he said. “Sometimes you have to have (luck) to be able to win.”

And when it comes to winning, Machtaler, appearing in his second America’s Cup, is just as hungry as his veteran captain.

“We came down here with nothing less than gold on our mind,” he said. “We don’t want to leave with anything but gold.”

The wind, which came up around noon and was very gusty at times, was partially to blame for just nine scores of par or better during the first round. Quick greens and tough pin locations also kept the 68 junior players on their toes while tackling the nearly 7,000-yard course.

“It was pretty fun,” said Montana’s Casey Keyser, who shot a 1-over 73. “On some holes you had the wind at your back and you just let the driver go. Then you had the next hole coming right back into the wind. You had to rip a drive and then have a long iron into the green. That was tough.”

America’s Cup play will resume at 7:30 this morning and will conclude on Thursday afternoon. Seventeen four-member teams from the western United States, Hawaii, western Canada and Mexico are participating in the 54-hole event.

The players range in age from 14 to 17.

Oregon kept the heat on B.C. by getting a pair of 71s from Ted Whitney and Matt Fladwood. Northern California, receiving a 2-under 70 from David Kim, is third at 219.

Mexico, Nevada and San Diego are tied for fourth at 221. Montana is tied with Colorado for 13th at 232, while newcomer Wyoming is 17th at 251.

Keyser, from Kalispell, had Montana’s best score. Nicholas Larson, from Riverton, paced Wyoming with an 82.

The day’s top individual effort was turned in by 14-year-old Chris Freeman of San Diego, who shot a 4-under 68 – two strokes better than any other golfer. His day included five birdies, one bogey and a whole lot of scrambling due to the wind.

“I was just getting it out of bunkers and getting up and down from tough places,” said Freeman. “I putted really well. I probably had like 25 putts and that always helps. …

“I had no three putts today and a lot of one putts. My stroke just felt really good. I hope it feels like that tomorrow.”

The 5-foot-9, 142-pound Freeman is coming off an eighth place finish (in the 15-17 age bracket) at the recent Junior World Championships in San Diego.

The front side of the YCC layout yielded 3-under 33s by Daniel Summerhays of Utah and Fladwood of Oregon. Freeman carded a 3-under 33 on the longer back nine.

Utah’s Barry Schenk, who had a hole-in-one on the par-3 No. 5 during Monday’s practice round, notched an eagle on the par-5 No. 7 during Tuesday’s play.

In helping B.C. finish first on opening day, Pewarchuk provided some drama down the stretch. He made a long par-saving putt on the par-3 No. 17 after a wayward tee shot.

“He kind of faded (off the tee) and the wind grabbed it and put it in the trap,” said Zelizney. “He just sort of chunked it out, but then hit about a 40-footer or so which was unbelievable.”

Pewarchuk followed with a four-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 18.

“On the 18th he went into the left trap and when he hit it out of there four feet behind the flag, I couldn’t believe it,” said Zelizney. “That was the shot of the day.”

And, with a couple more like that, Zelizney’s long wait may indeed be over.

Junior Boys America’s Cup

After first round (Best three scores count in team totals)

British Columbia (213) – James Lepp 34-37–71; Greg Machtaler 36-35–71; Dustin Pewarchuk 37-34–71; Mitch Gillies 39-42–81.

Oregon (215) – Ted Whitney 37-34–71; Matt Fladwood 33-38–71; Kevin Beavers 37-36–73; Vincent Johnson 41-43–84.

Northern California (219) – David Kim 34-36–70; Dusty Diedrich 38-36–74; Reid Scarff 37-38–75; Ben Choe 34-42–76.

Mexico (221) – Yoshio Yamamoto 36-37–73; William Filsinger 37-36–73; Juan Ramon Barrul 36-39–75; Hector Diaz Cellabos 40-36–76.

San Diego (221) – Chris Freeman 35-33–68; James Fahselt 36-40–76; Estanislao Guerrero 37-40–77; Andy Park 39-40–79.

Nevada (221) – Drew Scott 36-37–73; Matt Edwards 35-39–74; Dustin Hall 36-38–74; Ryan Godman 38-38–76.

Washington (223) – Alex Prugh 37-36–73; Sean Packer 35-40–75; Charles Koh 36-39–75; Lucas Johnson 38-40–78.

Utah (224) – Daniel Summerhays 33-39–72; Barry Schenk 35-37–72; Stephen Newren 39-41–80; Jordan Fowles 37-44–81.

Idaho (226) – Matt Williams 37-38–75; Jason Bideganeta 39-36–75; Cody Wolfenbarger 35-41–76; Brett Kleinkopf 41-38–79.

Hawaii (227) – Jarett Hamamoto 37-36–73; Casey Watabu 38-35–73; Gabriel Wilson 42-39–81; Brett Furutani 39-43–82.

Southern California (228) – Mike Rim 35-39–74; Brandon Christianson 38-37–75; Nicholas Wilkins 42-37–79; Kyle Shelly 40-42–82.

Alberta (229) – Ryan Yip 37-37–74; Ryan Swelin 37-39–76; Ryan Lecuyer 39-40–79; Dale Vallely 38-41–79.

Montana (232) – Casey Keyser 35-38–73; Renzi Lee 39-39–78; Adam Hober 40-41–81; Randy Southern 42-44–86.

Colorado (232) – Kenny Coakley 36-40–76; Jordan Williams 36-40–76; Luke Antonelli 41-39–80; Bennie Espinoza 41-42–83.

Arizona (234) – Jeff Berkshire 36-37–73; Jake Grodzinski 38-41–79; Sean Crebbs 39-43–82; Michael Ferris 41-41–82.

Sun Country: El Paso & New Mexico (235) – Moises Valdez 37-41–78; Nicholas Quintela 40-38–78; Danny Bowen 38-41–79; Kyle Bornowski 41-43 –84.

Wyoming (251) – Nicholas Larson 40-42–82; Adam Mrak 44-40–84; Chris Manning 42-43–85; Adam Kaman 44-43–87.

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