Ham, Anderson lead scramble after 18 holesPublished 12:01am Sunday, June 24, 2012
NATCHEZ — The team of Jeff Anderson and Beau Pré club champion Casey Ham is just 18 holes away from repeating as champions of the Wharlest Jackson Elks Lodge Two-Man Scramble.
But if Ham and Anderson want to win the 2012 title, they will have to hold off some serious competition to go back-to-back.
Anderson and Ham had an eagle on the par-5 8th hole to go with 13 birdies en route to an opening-round 15-under-par, 57, at Beau Pré Country Club on Saturday to take the lead in the championship flight.
That’s one shot better than they had a year ago when they fired a final-round 58 to rally past the team of Howard Jones and Stephen Hollingsworth to claim a two-shot win.
“We always support the Wharlest Jackson tournament every year. We give it up to the cause,” Anderson said. “We appreciate all the help from the volunteers. The food is good. The course is in good shape.”
Anderson said he and Ham came out hot Saturday.
“We started out birdie-birdie-birdie,” he said. “We missed a long birdie putt on No. 6. We hit it to about 2 1/2 feet on 7 for birdie and then made an eagle on 8. We birdied 9 to shoot 8-under on the front.
“We hit it good on the back and had a chance for eagle on 18. We made birdie there. The champ (Ham) hit it awesome all day. I look forward to tomorrow.”
Three other teams who started their round in the late morning also had rounds in the 50s. Wesley Rogers and Kevin Smith are just one shot back at 14-under-par, 58. They had 14 birdies and four pars.
“Both of us played really well. We hit the ball well and made a few putts when we had to. We brother-in-lawed (alternated scores)well,” Smith said. “We just hope to keep up with the club champ tomorrow.”
Two teams are tied for third place at 13-under-par, 59 — the team of Tee Cotten and Keith Rayborn as well as the team of Daryl Leblanc and Nick Guidry, who are from Abbeville, La. The Cotten/Rayborn team finished with 13 birdies and five pars while the Leblanc/Guidry tandem had two eagles, nine birdies and seven pars.
“Keith and I played as well as we could possibly play. We made three putts over 20 feet for birdie,” Cotten said. “The rest of the round we brother-in-lawed pretty good. He picked me up when I needed it and I picked him up when he needed it.”
Guidry said he and Leblanc played solid early and came on strong on the back nine.
“Our round turned when we eagled the par-4 12th hole. Then we eagled 18. We got off to a slow start. After a birdie on No. 1, we parred three straight holes, but we shot 8-under on the back.”
Anderson wasn’t the only one who praised how well the course is playing. Other golfers also said the heat wasn’t as big of a factor as it could have been.
“The course is playing fine. It’s in excellent shape. Last week we had the Club Championship. It can’t play any better than it is now,” said Craig Bradford, who along with David Heard shot an even-par 72. “It’s a fun tournament. It’s low stress. Being a two-man scramble, it’s a lot of fun. It’s warm, but the humidity is fairly low. In Mississippi, it can be a lot worse than this when the humidity is high. It’s not too bad.”
“The course is in excellent condition. The fairways are plush. The greens are smooth and true,” Rayborn said. “Dee Barron and his crew outdid themselves.”
Trevor Farmer, who teamed with Tommy Geoghegan to shoot a first-round 6-under-par, 66, said the course was in great condition as well. He and Geoghegan started slow but finished strong.
“We struggled on the front, but came through on the back. We couldn’t catch any breaks on the front,” Farmer said.
Tournament co-director Tom Matthews said the turnout for this year’s Wharlest Jackson Elks Lodge Two-Man Scramble — 27 two-man teams — wasn’t what he was hoping for.
“A lot of players were out of town that usually play in this. Twenty-five players are playing on a course in Biloxi. We did the best we could under the circumstances,” Matthews said. “But this is vacation time. As long as we can make enough money, scholarship money, for high school seniors who play golf, we’ll be OK.”
One person who has played in this tournament since it started back in 1998 is Charlie Fife, who now lives in Lafayette, La.
“This tournament is Tom Matthews’. He gets participation because of all the friends he has. It’s for a good cause,” Fife said. “It’s celebrating Wharlest Jackson’s legacy.”
Today’s final round will have a 9 a.m. shotgun start.