JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Keith Mitchell still surprises his dad, although Jerry Mitchell has seen his son play hundreds of rounds of golf.
A final approach shot impressed him Monday.
Following a drive of about 320 yards, the younger Mitchell had 235 yards left into the 18th green of the Highlands Course at Atlanta Athletic Club. And there's water in front of the green.
The former Baylor School star struck a 4-iron that landed in the middle of the green even though his playing competitors laid up on the par-5 hole playing 557 yards.
"It was ripped," said Mitchell, who gave the shot a little body English. "I knew I hit it good when I made contact."
There weren't enough of those shots -- or enough birdies -- from him, however, in the first of two stroke-play rounds of the U.S. Amateur.
He fired a 4-over-par 75 and will need to shoot under par today on the Riverside Course to reach the 64-man match-play field.
"The two courses are playing so similar right now that I just have to get my head focused on playing a good round," Mitchell said. "I can't try too hard. That's what I did today. I have to eliminate the mental errors out there."
Mitchell is tied for 169th place, and 70 golfers shot even or better. Kennesaw State senior Jimmy Beck from Columbus, Ga., Florida Gators commitment Sam Horsfield and Taylor Moore of Edmond, Okla., lead after shooting 6 under. Beck had a 65 on the Highlands Course, and Horsfield and Moore shot 66s on the Riverside.
"It feels so good," Beck said. "To see putts continue to fall and hit it where you want to hit it is a good feeling."
Mitchell felt good after he made a birdie on No. 6 to get him back to even for the day, even though his approach came from a fairway bunker. He then got up-and-down from a tight lie on No. 7 to save a par.
He stepped to the tee at No. 8, where water looms down the left and trouble on the right. It splashed a few yards shy of the retaining wall.
"I got over-hyped and tried to hit a big drive," Mitchell said. "I tried to hit a big drive."
The result was a triple-bogey for the hole and a lasting impact on his mood.
Two pars were followed by a bogey, a birdie on the par-5 No. 12 where he reached in two, and bogeys for two of the next three holes.
"My attitude wasn't great after I made that bad hole, and it took a while for me to bounce back," Mitchell said. "I felt like I was trying to press too hard and make good scores."
Pressing on No. 18, with a 4-iron from 235 yards, paid off with a birdie.
"I hit probably my two best shots of the day on 18," Mitchell said. "I did hit a really good first putt, but it broke just a bit."
Mitchell signed his card, organized his golf bag and passed out more than a dozen hugs to family and friends who traveled from North Carolina, Chattanooga, Atlanta and Macon.
"This is his fourth USGA event, and the early ones were hard to watch," Jerry Mitchell said. "They get easier each year."
And there's always something he hasn't seen.
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.
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 ...