Thomas Ponder was able to “get in a rhythm on my back nine” and dropped a short birdie putt to end his round with some momentum at 1-under-par 69.
Emmett Lee was somewhat pleased with a “boring round” in shooting even-par.
Defending champion Hal Dove hopes to get “everything together” in round two after coming in at 72.
Dax Weed “made some really good putts on the last four holes” to also finish at 2-over.
It was a somewhat rocky day for most of the local entrants during first round play in the 15-18 age division of the Press Thornton Future Masters on Thursday.
Rehobeth golfer Brantley Scott came in at 73 after making the turn at even par. Houston Academy’s Jake McDonald finished at 75, Matthew Streitman at 76 and Jase Walker at 84. Troy product Griffin McCrary had an 80.
Ponder, starting on the back nine, bogeyed his first hole, but quickly steadied himself.
“I hooked it way left in the trees, but that wasn’t really the problem,” Ponder said of his first hole. “I punched out on the other side of the ditch, and I don’t know what happened, but it was one of those things to where you get juiced up and adrenalin going and I hit it onto the next tee box.
“Then I hit a really great pitch back on and had like 15 feet and just lipped out. It was just one of those things.”
He parred out to make the turn at 1-over and then birdied No. 1 to pull back to even par.
“I just couldn’t get anything going on that back nine,” Ponder said. “I just needed a fresh start.”
Ponder birdied No. 6, made bogey on 7 and then finished with a nice birdie on No. 9 after a booming tee shot.
“I hit the drive really good,” Ponder said of the final hole “I had like 52 yards in. I was trying to put it up there as far as I could.”
He then hit his approach shot to within two feet of the hole before tapping in.
“I’ve been kind of working on that shot over the past week – trying like to get my touch and feel back within, like 60 yards,” Ponder said.
Ponder has been using a new driver that has given him more length on his drives.
“It’s a Titleist TS4,” Ponder said. “It’s really hot. It’s perfect for me out here because it has a little less spin than I normally have on a driver and it just keeps rolling up.
“It doesn’t really balloon up in the air. It kind of keeps it under the wind and at the same time it just goes forever.”
Ponder finds himself eight strokes back of the leader, Maxwell Ford of Peachtree Corners, Ga., who shot what’s believed to be a tourney record for a round at 61.
As for chasing the leaders, Ponder looks forward to “hunting them down” the next two days.
For Lee, shooting even-par 70 gives him confidence going forward.
“I was just getting up and down and making putts and really saving myself,” Lee said. “I started off on the back nine and I birdied my first hole and then bogeyed 11 and birdied 12. I parred out the rest of the nine. Really, I wasn’t hitting it very well, but I was just making everything inside 10 feet, so that helped a lot.
“I know my putting tomorrow most likely isn’t going to be the same, so I just have to hit it more consistent and hit more fairways to give myself easier approach shots where I can stick it close. If my putting hadn’t been on today, it would have been a lot worse.”
Dove was the lone local golfer to tee off in the morning and found trouble early. Starting on the back nine, Dove uncharacteristically four-putted the par 3 No. 13 for a triple-bogey.
“Just hit it in a bad spot,” Dove said. “I got over the green and had a really fast chip and hit it about 15 feet by. I missed the putt and got it above the hole and had a tricky four-footer and just missed it. It went about six or seven feet by, which on that putt was very easy to happen with it being above the hole.”
Dove said he couldn’t remember the last time he four-putted a hole.
“I know I 5-putted here when I was 11 years old in the 11-12 age group,” Dove said. “I still remember that. I had that in the back of my mind, which probably wasn’t the best thing.
“Just frustrating because I know where not to miss it here and I missed it in a spot where I knew it was going to be tough to make par, or even bogey.”
Dove is ready to put the disappointing round behind.
“I know I played about as bad as I could today and shot 72 on my home course, which is frustrating but it’s also reassuring, too, because I know that I can hit the ball poorly and still shoot 68 or 69 out here,” Dove said. “I’ve got to get everything together and I know I can put a really low score up.”
Weed was inconsistent with his drives, but was able to rally with some good putts on the back nine after making the turn at 1-over.
“On the back nine, I couldn’t find a fairway, but I made some really good putts on the last four holes to keep my score at 2-over,” Weed said. “The greens are the fastest I’ve ever played them. They’re definitely faster than they were last year.
“When you’re chipping on them, they’re kind of spongy, so they grab and don’t really go anywhere. But when you’re hitting from the fairway for some reason they are hard as a rock and it bounces and goes straight over the green. They’re definitely tough.
“It took me about nine holes until I actually started making some putts on these greens.”
A year ago, Weed had a first round 72 as well and followed with rounds of 70 and 67.
“I think I got a pretty good mindset, because last year I opened with a 72 as well and I just progressed and got better,” Weed said. “From the putts that I hit today and made and shots that I hit, if I can just piece it together a little better, I can shoot really, really good tomorrow (Friday).”