published Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Hixson's Richard Spangler continues sizzle with Signal Mountain Invitational lead

Richard Spangler played competitive golf every day this week.

He started Monday by making a bit of personal history and ended Friday as the first-round leader of the Signal Mountain Invitational with three rounds at the Tennessee Open sandwiched in the middle.

Three of those five rounds were par or better.

"For the last week, my game has been good," Spangler said. "I'm hitting the ball perfect and I've been making a lot of putts. I'm putting it so good now since I switched to a belly-putter three months ago."

Spangler began the week by advancing from a U.S. Open local qualifier by shooting a 5-under-par 67 at Marietta Country Club in Kennesaw, Ga.

The Hixson resident made the cut at the State Open by shooting a 2-over 144 on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then in preparation for the sectional qualifier, he decided to walk the final round and shot a 7-over 78 on Thursday to finish tied for 53 at Gaylord Springs.

His 5-under 66 Friday has him two shots ahead of McCallie golfer Gordon Hulgan and former professional Chris Schmidt.

Matt Robertson, Jay Potter and Jake Hamilton are tied for fourth at 70. Eleven players shot 72s.

"Everything is starting to come together at once," Spangler said. "My distance is dead-on. It may be left or right, but I'm always hole high."

His U.S. Open sectional is June 4 at Lakeside Country Club in Houston. He began thinking about airplane and hotel logistics shortly after his back-nine 30 in Kennesaw.

"I had a different attitude on the back and I said, 'I've tried this a thousand times, so I'm going to have fun on this last nine,'" Spangler said. "I had Andrew Black on the bag and I let it go. I started making bombs from everywhere.

"Now I've got to start walking and drop some pounds to get ready for Houston."

Spangler had the round of the day Friday. But he didn't have the shot of the day -- or what will likely be the shot of the tournament.

Joel LaValley opened his SMI with a double-eagle on the 468-yard first hole. He hit a driver to the middle of the fairway and then a 3-hybrid to the green from 227 yards out.

"We saw it bounce once and then disappear, so we got up there thinking it went long and searched all over the place," LaValley said of his third albatross in the last five years. "Then I looked in the cup. There it was.

"I didn't make a birdie the rest of the day [and shot 80]."

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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