published Friday, October 7th, 2011

Thompson leads Classic at 9 under

Andrew Black, of Chattanooga, takes off his hat after finishing his first round during the first round of the Children's Hospital Classic Thursday at the Black Creek Club in Chattanooga.
Andrew Black, of Chattanooga, takes off his hat after finishing his first round during the first round of the Children's Hospital Classic Thursday at the Black Creek Club in Chattanooga.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

Doug Barron is approaching the Children's Hospital Classic as if it's his tour championship.

The Classic is currently the last tournament on his schedule before he heads to PGA Tour qualifying school.

But Barron may play his way into the Miccosukee Championship next week in Miami. He's well on his way to finishing in the top 25 in this week's tournament, which would extend his season.

"I was totally into my mental game and tried not to think about my swing," said Barron, who is playing at Black Creek Club on a sponsor's exemption. "I tried not to give my bad shots so much attention and to give my good shots a lot of attention."

Barron, Justin Bolli, Brent Delahoussaye and Brice Garnett shot 7-under-par 65s Thursday and are tied for second after the first of four rounds.

They trail Nicholas Thompson, who is trying to get in the Nationwide Tour championship. Currently No. 61 on the money list, Thompson needs to move up one spot to earn an invitation to play the last event of the year.

"All I can do is play as well as I can and see where I fall," Thompson said. "I do like where I'm sitting -- not in 61st -- but I love the courses we're playing to finish up, beginning here. It's going right towards a good finish."

Thompson shot a 9-under 63 on Thursday afternoon. His round included nine birdies -- two on the par-5s, three on par-3s and four on par-4s. He scrambled to save par on No. 9, his last hole, by flopping from a grassy spot in the hazard to within three feet of the flagstick.

"Heck of an up-and-down," his caddie said.

A heck of a round.

"That was the only green I missed all day, and I just hooked a pitching wedge," Thompson said. "I hit a lot of good golf shots, and that's the easiest way to put it. I butchered two par-5s with par, and out here making par on a par-5 is butchering it.

"I putted really nicely."

Barron is just thankful to have meaningful putts this week. If not for an invitation from the tournament, he would likely be at home in Memphis preparing for the second stage of Q-School. From there he could propel himself back to the PGA Tour, where he last played regularly in 2006.

"I haven't ever found the zone again, but today I had spurts where I was in that zone and it was fun," said Barron, who shot 31 on the front. "I had a game plan and it wasn't about the score: It was about whether I could get in my little circle and stay quiet long enough to hit a golf ball."

Barron's putting and his golf swing seem to be fine these days. It's getting the six inches between his ears in the right shape that's been a struggle of late.

"I actually had fun playing golf," he said. "I'd been struggling just to have fun playing golf. I'm trying to leave what's behind behind and trying to look forward."

Bolli won the Classic in 2004. After one round, he's in contention to earn another trophy for his mantel. He made birdies on five of his final six holes.

"I made a lot of putts in the 10-15-foot range," Bolli said. "I'd been struggling in that range and it was nice to make those. My putting felt good today, and I feel like I can read them a lot better than at other places."

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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