CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Chris Schmidt made a wise decision while packing his golf bag Friday night for a Saturday round in the Cleveland Invitational.
He chose to remove the long putter he's used most of the summer and replace it with a trusty regular-length TaylorMade putter.
He used it to score seven birdies and shoot a 5-under-par 67 in the first round Saturday at Cleveland Country Club.
"This is the best I've putted all year," said Schmidt, who won the Signal Mountain Invitational in May. "I got too mechanical as opposed to feeling the putts."
The long putter remained in the trunk of his BMW just in case the old reliable club didn't work.
"I didn't make as many of the 10 to 12 footers as I would have liked with the belly putter," Schmidt said. "It's going to stay in the trunk. It doesn't suit me as well as I like and I'm too inconsistent with it."
Matt Robertson, a former Lee University golfer who led after the fist round in 2010, is one shot behind Schmidt.
"I've not won this tournament, but I've choked it away about four times," said Robertson, who teamed with Matt Hadden to win the Tennessee Four-Ball championship on July 29 at Cleveland Country Club. "I'm comfortable with that course so I'll go out tomorrow and do what I have for the last six or eight rounds and make some birdies.
"But I need to get off to a better start and not shank it out of bounds and over the blue house on the first hole."
Jimmy White III and Nick West shot 3 under. Caleb Roberson and Richard Spangler are three shots behind Schmidt's lead, while Phillip Guess and Tanner Garland will begin today's round four back. Joe Markham Jr. was the only other player to shoot par or better Saturday.
Gerald Burns leads the senior division competition by one shot over Randy Yoder and Mike Jenkins. Tennessee Wesleyan golf and basketball coach Mike Poe is two shots behind Burns.