Aaron Pounds of The Woodlands, Texas, shot the round of his life with an 8-under-par 62 during the first round of the 13-14 age division of the Press Thornton Future Masters at the Dothan Country Club on Sunday.
“I was trying not to think about my score throughout the round, but it is hard not to,” Pounds said.
Despite a tally believed to tie the lowest round for any age division in the 70 years of the tournament, there are a handful of players right on his heels.
Rylan Shim of Centreville, Va., fired a 63 and Frank Kennedy of Crewe, England, shot a 64. Four others came in at 65: Jackson Koivun of San Jose, Calif., Daniel Macias of Austin, Texas, Alex Roberts of Birmingham and Jack Usner of Shanandoah, Texas.
And there are many others very much in contention heading into the second round on Monday as 21 players shot under par during the opening 18.
After one day, however, they’re all chasing Pounds, a 14-year-old playing in his first Future Masters. In 2011, Michael Hines of Acworth, Ga., also shot a 62 during his first round of the 15-18 division. Hines would later tie the all-time Future Masters three-round record at 12-under par 198 in winning the overall championship.
For Pounds, it was a magical round from start to finish as he shot 4-under 31 on both sides.
Starting on the back nine, Pounds birdied his opening hole, No. 10, and birdied each of the final three holes before making the turn. On the front nine, he made birdies on holes 2, 4, 7 and 9.
“One of the things I’ve struggled with is whenever I get off to a really good start like I did today, I get conservative and try to hold it,” Pounds said. “Today, I just tried to keep making birdies and play like I was playing and I think that paid off for sure. Whenever the putter is on fire, I think I can shoot really well.”
Shim was sizzling on his first nine in making the turn at 6-under. Starting on the back, he made birdies on holes 10, 12, 14, 15, 17 and 18.
“Like my coach says on the practice rounds, ‘You’ve got to sharpen your axe.’ And I think today my axe was very sharp,” Shim said.
“I stuck to my game plan really well. Just putting myself in a comfortable yardage in the fairway where I could attack the pins and have a comfortable putt. I did that almost perfectly today.
“I had two pretty long bombs today, on holes 14 and 17. On 14, it was probably about a 50-footer. That was a great putt.”
Kennedy, a native of England who is now residing in Jupiter, Fla., is just two strokes back after his solid round of 6-under. Just 13 and smaller than many of those in the division, he is plenty confident of being able to contend for the championship.
“You could hit it 300 yards and not score well,” Kennedy said. “I’m not the longest hitter, but you have to hit it in certain spots to be in the right spot. I putted really solid out there today.
“On No. 7, I holed like a 30-foot for birdie.
“It was just one shot at a time. I had a few bad shots out there, but I came away with a par by focusing on it.”
Koivun, who tied with three others at 65, was 4-under after just five holes. He had birdies on 1, 2, 4 and 5 to begin the round.
“I put it to within six inches on No. 1 and I made a 20-footer on 2,” Koivun said. “I lipped out on 3 from about another 20 feet, but I was able to bounce back on 4 with a 5-footer, maybe.
“On the back nine, I lipped out for eagle on 10, so that was disappointing. I had four or five lip outs. I had like three on the stretch from 15 to 18.”
Macias, also at 65, said accuracy was the key to his round.
“Since I’m 13, I really don’t hit the ball that far, so it was a lot about accuracy for me,” Macias said. “I think I have as good of a chance as anybody because of my accuracy. I might not have the distance, but I’m accurate.”
Ethan Gao of Alpharetta, Ga., was among four shooting a 66, but thought he could have gone much lower.
“I should have been at least 6 or 7 under,” Gao said. “Like, during the morning the greens were a little more wet and it changed in the afternoon and got a lot drier. I was a little thrown off by that, but I still had a lot of good chances."
Gao was kicking himself about birdie opportunities that got away.
“There were many,” Gao said. “I made the turn on No. 1 and I had a 7-footer lip out. I birdied 4. On 5, I had another 4 or 5 footer that I lipped out. Seven, eight and nine I had really good 10-footers that I all missed. I misread them. I can see what mistakes I made today and see what I did wrong.”
Nolan Haynes of Barberton, Ohio, also shot a 66 and knew it could have been better.
“My driver is actually not doing too well,” Haynes said. “I was scrambling for par most of the time. Whenever I had a chance to go for birdie, I just tried to play the middle of the green every time and try to go for putts.
“My driver was off, and then I realized you could get out of most spots. So I really felt like you couldn’t mess up your tee shot. You could maybe try to hit it as far as possible, because if you end up going into trouble you could probably punch out.”
Daniel Boone of Fuquay Varina, N.C., had an eagle on No. 10 during his round of 68.
“I hit a really good drive right down the middle,” Boone said. “I hit a 5-iron in just long of the green in the edge of the rough. I had about 25 or 30 footer (putt) and then I made that.”
It was a short day for one competitor. Rafe Cochran of Palm Beach, Fla., had to withdraw from the tournament after 10 holes due to a back problem. Starting on the back nine, Cochran was at 4-over 39 before making the turn. On his final hole before having to quit, Cochran made bogey on the par 4 No. 1.
Players in the 13-14 age division return to the course on Monday for their second round. The first tee times are scheduled for 11:45 a.m.