Posted: Friday, March 22nd 2013 at 2:09am
Weather aside, course makes for tough sledding at Milton Martin Classic
By Morgan Lee Editor
A competitor tees off from No. 1 on Thursday at Chattahoochee Golf Club in the Milton Martin Honda Classic, National Golf Association tournament in Gainesville.
GAINESVILLE -- Stephen Grant has golfed in frigid conditions before -- he is from Ireland after all -- but the cold air that whipped across Chattahoochee Golf Club on Thursday proved more than memorable even for someone used to northern European climes.
“My caddy wetted a towel before we started and by the third hole, we looked down and it was frozen,” Grant said. “It was brutal out there at times today.”
Yet the biting conditions did little to derail Grant -- or Chris Wolfe or Will McCurdy for that matter, as the trio finished the first day of the NGA’s Milton Martin Honda Classic Tournament tied atop the leaderboard at 3-under par (69) when play was suspended due to darkness.
The leaders were followed by another trio at 2-under -- Daniel McCarthy, Chas Narramore and Trent Whitekiller. And while the weather made for good conversation, competitors noted that it was actually the course itself that made the biggest difference on a day when just nine golfers finished under par. (NOTE: For a look at the full leaderboard, click here.)
“I played here two years ago, and I don’t remember it being this tricky,” said Wolfe, a Warner Robin native whose round included five birdies, one eagle (on the par-five No. 6) and four bogies. “You had to stay patient out there. The greens were tough, and you had to make some 15-20-foot putts.
“Par was your friend out there today.”
Indeed, McCurdy, an Auburn, Ala., native, made 11 par putts during the first round, negating two bogies (on the par-three No. 3 and par-four No. 16), with birdie putts on Nos. 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11.
“The greens were firm, fast and they slope a lot,” said Grant, who is embarking on a second professional sports career after time spent with Liverpool Football Club in England. “It’s a lovely course, but it wasn’t easy.”
Grant’s only bogey of the day came on the par-four No. 11, but birdie efforts at 2, 12, 13 and 17 more than made up for two missed putts.
“I kept the ball on the fairway all day, and I was a little unlucky,” Grant said. “I almost had birdies on 3, 4 and 6, and I had a birdie putt on 8 that just lipped out.”
After spending the last few months in south Florida working on his swing with coach Claude Harmon III -- the son of swing guru Butch Harmon -- Grant is in the midst of only his second competitive tournament of the season with the NGA. This week’s storming start proved in stark contrast to last week when Grant missed the cut by two strokes in the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic in North Augusta, S.C.
“I put a brand new set of clubs in my bag last week, and I’m still not completely used to them,” Grant said. “But I’m coming along. And I feel like I’m ready to compete now.”
While only a rookie, Whitekiller has certainly proven ready to compete. The Oklahoma native took the weather and course in stride on Thursday, following up last week’s 19th place finish with three birdies against just one bogey.
“If I missed today, I left it where I needed it to be,” said Whitekiller, whose round kept him in front of yet another trio tied at 1-under -- Seth Fair, Will Mitchell and Kent Bulle. “Last week I hit the ball badly and still finished top 20, so I’m feeling pretty good right now because I hit the ball well today.”
“I’m used to this,” Whitekiller said. “It’s like this every fall and spring where I was playing.”
The weather will continue to stay on the minds of everyone involved in this week’s tournament, as officials look toward a weekend forecast that includes increased chances of rain.
“We came out today and tried to play aggressive, because looking at the forecast, we saw there’s a chance their might not be four rounds,” Grant said. “I’m planning on playing four rounds, but we decided to go for it a little more today just in case.”
The first round of the Milton Martin Honda Classic will resume at 7:45 a.m. and the second round will begin at 8 a.m. As usual, admission is free to the public.
The NGA Pro Golf Tour is the No. 3 Men’s Professional Golf Tour in the United States after the PGA and Web.com Tours and is the No. 1 recommended developmental tour by more PGA and Web.com Tour Professionals.
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