The options abound at The Honors Course.
It’s part of what Pete Dye intended when he designed the course in the early 1980s to honor amateur golf.
Some of the best amateurs in the country took advantage of the those options and found success on Wednesday during the first round of the Southern Amateur. Most did not.
Only 20 players broke par on day, and golfers took vastly different approaches on a pristine day for mid-July to reach their final scores.
Grayson Murray hit driver off the tee three times and shot a 6-under 66 to take the first-round lead. M.J. Maguire pulled driver at least 10 times by his math and is tied for fourth at 3-under.
There’s more than one way to find the fairway, which is important, and the bottom of the cup, which is most important.
“My game plan was to be conservative off the tee,” said Murray, who grew up in Raleigh, N.C. “I didn’t even hit driver on [par-5 No. 6] and still made birdie. My plan is to be in the fairway no far how back I am.”
Trevor Cone of Concord., N.C, and Geoff Drakeford of Australia are tied for second at 4 under. Both followed a similar plan of playing it safe off the tee. Cone hit woods and hybrids more often than his driver and Drakeford pulled driver five times.
“You have to find the fairway because you cant play from the rough out here,” Cone said. “If you just hit the fairway, you have a mid-iron or short in.”
Maguire of St. Petersburg, Fla.; Shotaro Ban of San Jose, Calif.; and Eric Ricard of Shreveport, La., are tied for fourth and they all reached 3 under in a variety of ways.
Maguire’s tee shots started on different lines and landed in fairways. Shotaro said he played it conservative, and Ricard said he just went with his gut before hitting tee shots.
Three players in the same group can all choose three different clubs on all of the par-4 holes. Drivers, 3-woods, hybrids and irons were all used by golfers to begin their rounds on either No. 1 or No. 10. Only Nos. 2, 11 and 17 require driver — like Murray played.
“I hit driver on a lot of holes where other guys liked to lay back a bit,” Maguire said. “I noticed there are certain holes where the landing area is wider. On No. 13, a lot of people laid back. I took driver over the left side and 100 yards in.”
Maguire said he preferred approaching the hard-and-fast Bermuda greens — which are less than a year old — with a wedge or short-iron instead of a longer club.
“Driver is the best club in my bag right now,” said Maguire who was talked into playing in the Southern Am instead of the U.S. Public Links Championship by Chattanooga native Keith Mitchell. “I had an exemption into Pub-Links, but I’d herd this is a ball-striker’s course and that’s my speciality.”
Mitchell, a former Baylor School star and University of Georgia graduate, didn’t fare as well as his buddy from the University of North Florida. Mitchell shot a 3-over 75 including a four-putt on No. 10 and a bogey to close on No. 18.
“I’ve never seen it play this fast, and I’ve been playing here since I was about 2-years-old, and I’ve never seen some of the pin placements they had today,” said Mitchell, who will start his second round off No. 10 at 8:40 a.m. “I hit some poor shots. It really wasn’t out there for me today.”
Mitchell who started at 1:40 concluded his round about 7:30. Most groups averaged at least 5 ½ hours, due in part, to the difficulty of the course. The average score was 76.74 for the field at the No. 3 ranked amateur tournament in the country.
Davis Love IV shot a 90 with his famous father, Davis Love III — who captained the last U.S. Ryder Cup team and has won 20 PGA Tour events and a major championship — carrying his bag. They withdrew from the tournament after the young golfer shot 52 on the front, then 38 on the back with an eagle at No. 11.
Two others withdrew as well, leaving 165 players among the top 66 and ties at the end of the day to play the final two rounds of the 108th installment of the Southern Amateur.
“You have to be strategic,” said Robbie Shelton, who is No. 2 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings and shot a 71. “After your opening round, you want to be in the hunt. To be under par on the first day is good.”
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter 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 ...