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Kerns takes lead at Ohio Amateur

WORTHINGTON (AP) — Nathan Kerns prides himself on how well he handles adversity.

Too bad he didn’t have any in the opening round of the Ohio Amateur.

The Marshall University senior shot a bogey-free 6-under 66 to forge a two-shot lead on Tuesday at Brookside Golf & Country Club.

“I do make those mistakes, which we all do,” the 21-year-old from Ironton said. “I am usually able to scramble around them a little bit.”

There was no need on a sunny and warm day and with the course playing under ideal conditions. Kerns had six birdies and little or no stress while going out in the fourth group off the tee and posting a low score early.

Kerns said his father, Jeff, who also played in the Am and shot an 80, taught him to never get frazzled when the inevitable misfire comes up.

“(He said to) never let a bad shot affect you because everybody’s going to hit them. And then just try to make the best of the next shot,” Kerns said.

“And you have to realize that it’s the Ohio Am and everybody’s going to make a bogey; I’m going to make a bogey at some point. Today was just one of those days.”

His closest pursuer is Kevin Grabeman, a former Ohio State player and a Brookside member for the last year and a half, who had a 68.

Grabeman has had a couple of close calls in recent Ohio Ams, leading after second round at Springfield in 2007 and hanging around the top 10 three years ago at his course growing up, Moraine, and in 2010 at Kirtland.

Now 27 and working for a health care company, he had to bolt immediately after his round for a meeting.

That was one of the few times all day the reigning Ohio Mid-Amateur champ had to push things. He feels he has a built-in advantage since he’s so knowledgeable about Brookside’s nuances.

“I do. You have to have a lot of good things going for you in a tournament like this,” he said. “Of course you have to play well. But having confidence is the biggest thing.”

In third with a 69 were college players Mac McLaughlin (Virginia), Kyle Kmiecik (Kent State), Nathan Clark (Lindsey Wilson), Thomas Dunne (Northern Illinois) and Ohio State’s Alex Redfield.

McLaughlin contended a year ago at NCR Country Club in Dayton before finishing 13th.

“This is the type of golf course that fits my game,” the Shaker Heights native said. “You don’t have to hit it super long. There’s a premium on accuracy and putting.”

Clark is a well-traveled 26-year-old who was born in Florida, lived in Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky and now Dublin, Ohio, and started his college career at Murray State before arriving at the small school in Columbia, Ky. His mother is an advertising executive for the daily newspaper in Columbus.

He was 5 under for the day with six holes to go before bogeying two par-3 holes.

“I think 15 under (for the tournament’s 72 holes) is what’s out there,” Clark said. “I figured somebody would go 7 or 8 under today.”

Ironton’s Tony Brown shot a 72 and was six shot back. Brown had rounds of 34 and 38 for his total.

There are seven past champions in the 144-player field. Several are hanging around the lead of the tournament, which includes Arnold Palmer, John Cook and Ben Curtis among its winners.

The 1997 winner, Andrew Montooth, and 1990 champ, Steve Anderson, each had a 71. Defending champ Korey Ward, a sophomore at Xavier, shot a 73. Peter Hammar (1987) was at 74, with Robert Gerwin II (1996, 2001), Alan Fadel (1995) and Michael Bernard (2010) all at 75.

“I just go play the tournaments; I don’t think about it,” Ward said of having to defend his title. “I’ve been playing well. My college season went decent, not great, but that was my freshman year. The summer’s going well so far and I’m getting ready for college golf again.”

Bernard became the youngest winner in tournament history when he captured the title two years ago at Kirtland at the age of 16. He led heading into the final round a year ago before he was overtaken by Ward.

He will play at Ohio State this fall.

He’s leading a wave of youngsters who are dominating the tournament.

A total of 34 teenagers made the elite field. Upper Arlington’s Justin Wick, the youngest player at 16, shot a 72.

“I feel like an older guy. I really do,” said Kerns, who is all of 21. “Golf just seems like it’s getting younger and younger.”