The 2014 St. Louis Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association Player of the Year, Belleville native Phil Caravia has his sights set on one prize which has eluded him during a solid amateur career as he competes this week at Boone Valley Country Club.
And it’s the one he wants the most.
A two-time NCAA Division I Tournament qualifier at the University of Mississippi and the 1996 Class AA state champion while at Belleville West, Caravia recovered from a rough start Thursday to shoot an even-par 71 and is five shots out of the lead after the first round at the 25th Metropolitan Amateur Championship.
Eighth in the Metropolitan Amateur Golf Association points standings, the 37-year-old Caravia made double bogey on his first two holes, but rebounded to play the next 16 holes at 4 under to finish the par-71 layout at level par and within striking distance of first-round leader Sam Migdal of Ballwin.
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Migdal, who won the NCAA Division II title this past spring while playing at Central Missouri State, shot a 5-under 66.
“This is the one I haven’t won, so of course it would be nice to win it,’’ Caravia said. “I’ve been close a couple of times. I think I was fourth last year and I have had a couple other top 10s.
“I just got off to a terrible start today. I felt good when I started but then after I play two holes, I’m 4-over par. I was pleased at how I was able to come back. I shot 32 on the back nine and it probably could have been a 31. It would be nice to be able to shoot a couple rounds under par the next two days and see what happens.’’
Playing out of Aberdeen Golf Course, the 22-year-old Migdal holds a two-stroke lead over Zach Cutler of St. Louis, who shot a 68, and three-stroke edge over former champion Skip Berkmeyer who shot 69.
Four players, including Nick Arman of Chesterfield and Scott Seibert of St. Louis, are at 1-under-par 70. Caravia and former Walker Cup team member Jim Holtgrieve both sit at 71.
A total of 155 of the top amateur players in the St. Louis area are in the field. Round two is set for Friday. The field will then be cut with the low 40 players advancing to the third and final round Saturday
Several other metro east players are also within striking distance after solid first rounds.
Edwardsville High School senior Justin Hemings shot a 73. Dane Gray of Belleville, former Althoff High School player Michael Johnson and Gibault grad Steven Souchek shot rounds of 74.
Drew Weisenborn, of Columbia, shot a 75, while Torrey Welsch shot a 78.
Former Metropolitan champion Tim Riley of Belleville shot a 77 in his first MAGA event of the year.
Migdal, who helped Central Missouri State place third in the team competition at the NCAA Division II finals, was playing Boone Valley for just the second time.
“The first time I played it was two days ago (Tuesday),’’ Migdal said. “It’s a great golf course, but the way it was playing today, if you were able to keep it in the fairway, you could go at the pins because the greens weren’t that fast.
“I hit it pretty close all day and was able to make a few 12-15 footers for birdie.’’
Expected to be one of the top high school players in the area this fall, Hemings got a few tips from Gateway National Golf Links head professional Bob Tays on Wednesday and went out and shot one of his most consistent rounds in several weeks.
“I started out the summer playing pretty good golf, but more recently it’s been a case where I play well one day and not so good the next. I’ve been hitting the ball all over the place,’’ Hemings said. “I had never had a lesson in my life until yesterday when I went and worked with Bob (Tays). We just made a few adjustments and today I came out and hit the ball as well as I have for a few weeks.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.