LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- Sam Saunders birdied six of his first 12 holes and fired a five-under 65 on Tuesday to claim the stroke-play lead at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
Carrying his own bag in the hot and muggy weather at Longmeadow Country Club, Saunders, the grandson of golfing great Arnold Palmer, finished two rounds of stroke play with a 36-hole total of 7-under-par 133.
Saunders' morning performance held up against 48 participants who completed their second round in the afternoon.
The final 30 golfers will finish their round Wednesday after play was halted twice by lightning strikes in the area -- but Saunders is all but guaranteed medalist honors, as just two golfers still on the course were under par.
'I am honored to be medalist,' said the 17-year-old Saunders, who along with 63 other golfers will advance to the match play portion of the championship. 'That's one of the coolest things to me, to get that medal.'
Saunders finished two strokes ahead of first-round leader Joseph Monte, who tied a course record with a 6-under-par 64 on Monday. The 16-year-old Monte posted a 1-over 71 on Tuesday to finish stroke play with a 5-under 135.
One stroke further back at 4-under 136 was Jamie Lovemark, 17, who played in the same group as Saunders. Last year's champion, 16-year-old Sihwan Kim, and runner-up, 15-year-old David Chung, were another stroke back at 137, along with 16-year-old Bradley Johnson.
'I didn't like this game today. It was terrible,' said Kim. 'I made match play, yes, but I wanted to keep myself up there. I wanted to shoot in the mid-60s.'
When the second round of stroke play is completed Wednesday, the top 64 scorers from a field of 156 will advance to the first round of match play, scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. (et).
The Junior Amateur, for golfers age 17 and younger, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association. The championship continues through Saturday, with a 36-hole match play final determining the winner.