Two days before the start of his favorite tournament, Rehobeth golfer Brantley Scott changed putters.
“That’s how desperate I was,” Scott said.
The new acquisition proved to be a good one.
Scott fired a 4-under-par 66 Thursday to lead the local golfers and rank among the overall leaders during the first round of the 15-18 age division of the 71st Annual Press Thornton Future Masters at the Dothan Country Club.
Scott and six others are one stroke behind co-leaders Jack Turner and Holden Webb.
“I picked up a new putter at a golf shop and really liked it,” Scott said. “I decided just to trust it and go with it. It’s a big heavy putter.”
Scott made seven birdies and “I lipped out probably four more,” he said.
The birdies came on holes 1, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 16.
“There was a putt on 12 that was probably 20 feet straight down the hill,” Scott said. “It was super-fast and I made that. I made a good 15-footer right to left on nine. On 7, I made one about 20 feet straight up a hill.
“On the back side I had so many putts that were only inches away from falling.”
Not only did a change of putters pay off, but switching coaches has been a difference-maker as well.
“I switched swing coaches to Tolver Dozier (former Dothan and Troy golfer) and he’s got me swinging really good right now,” Scott said. “I was striking it pretty good all day. The past few months have been pretty good golf.”
Scott made three bogeys in the round on Nos. 6, 11 and 18.
On the final hole, he got into trouble when he went into the left side rough on his tee shot.
“It wasn’t a horrible tee shot; it was just a little more of a draw than I wanted,” Scott said. “I ended up in the thick rough — about as thick as it gets out here. That’s a really tough pin on 18, so I just tried to punch it out and try to make par.”
Scott’s third shot went past the hole and came to rest on the top side of the green. His downhill putt for par slipped past the hole, but he made a nice putt back for bogey.
“I was striking it pretty good all day,” Scott said. “The putter was hot. It was a fun round. I’ll go out and do it again tomorrow, hopefully.”
Houston Academy’s Matthew Streitman, playing in the last foursome of the day, came in at 1-under 69 just before dark. A rain delay of 45 minutes slowed play.
Streitman had a good chance for birdie on his final hole, No. 18, after a terrific approach shot. But a 6-footer for birdie slid about 3 feet past the hole. Streitman then made a nice putt to save par and end the round on a positive note.
Earlier in the day, HA teammates Emmett Lee came in at 73 and Jake McDonald shot 74.
“I started just not hitting any fairways — I was scrambling and a making some 5- or 6-footers for par,” Lee said of his round. “Then when I would hit it on the green to 10 or 12 feet, I just kept burning the lip. My putter the whole day was just kind of cold.
“I hit the ball fine. It wasn’t all over the place; it was just a little bit off. My putter wasn’t hot at all, so it just added up to a mediocre 73.”
There was a great birdie for Lee on No. 4 after early trouble.
“I hit it in the water left,” Lee said. “So I dropped for 3. I hit a 5-iron to 105 out, so I’m hitting 4 from the fairway and dumped it for birdie there.”
For McDonald, who started on the back nine, a hot start turned into an inconsistent round.
“I was 2-under through three holes and then I three-putted 13 and 14, so then I wasn’t quite in the gear where I was when I started,” McDonald said. “I kept on hitting decent shots, but it slowly got a little bit worse. Eventually I bogeyed 18 to finish 1-over on the back side after parring a few holes in a row.
“I turned to the front and I started pulling them (drives) and hitting hooks. I hit it in the water on No. 2 and made bogey. On 3 I missed on a short putt. On 4, I was almost in the water off the tee and hit a great shot back into the fairway. I landed in a divot, actually. My third shot I flew the green and made bogey there.”
After another bogey on No. 6, McDonald settled in with three straight solid holes of par, birdie, and par.
“I started really good drives on all three of the holes,” McDonald said. “On all three, I had around 80 yards into the green and all three of those wedge shots I hit inside 6 feet, but only made one of them.
“That was my day today. My putter let me down several times today.”
Enterprise product Gibson Charlton, who is 16, last played in the Future Masters when he was 10. He struggled in shooting an 80, but kept a positive attitude.
“Just slow down,” Charlton said of his mindset going into the second round. “Every day is a new day.
“Being the first time back in six years, I didn’t expect to go out and play my best golf ever. The greens are really, really fast. The pins were pretty tough too.”
Three other area golfers competed on Thursday with Adam Kilpatrick of Andalusia coming in a 72, Griffin McCrary of Troy coming in at 79 and Jay Palmer of Donalsonville, Ga., scoring 87.