Golfer Andrew Johnson hits a chip shot from the sand bunk near the green on the 18th hole during the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic on Thursday morning at Beau Pré Country Club in Natchez. (Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat)
Golfer Andrew Johnson hits a chip shot from the sand bunk near the green on the 18th hole during the Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic on Thursday morning at Beau Pré Country Club in Natchez. (Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat)

Rain sets back tournament, first round continues today

Published 12:01am Friday, July 12, 2013

NATCHEZ — The Magnolia Bluffs Casino Classic got off to a rough start Thursday because of a series of thunderstorms that golfers and spectators hoped would hold off until that night.

The first group of golfers started their day at 7:30 a.m., but it wasn’t too long before the rain came pouring down at 10:15 a.m.

Now set back two hours, golfers that were going to tee off at noon and 4 p.m. didn’t get much golfing in before the rain drenched the field and everybody on it.

Less than half of the participants were able to finish the first round of the tournament, which they will complete starting at 8 a.m. today before the second round begins after 11 a.m.

Currently tied for the lead among finished golfers are Patton Kizzire and Rhein Gibson.

Kizzire said the first round went well for him despite the weather conditions.

“It was nice to get out there early; I beat the rain by about 30 minutes,” Kizzire said.

They both shot a 6-under-par 66, followed by both Jay Woodson and Derek Rende, who are tied for third with a 5-under-par 67.

Kizzire, of St. Simons Island, Ga., birdied four of his first six holes and added three more birdies to one bogey to take a share of the lead.

“I had a pretty good plan going out there, and I executed it really well,” he said. “I shot as many straightaways and hit as many greens as I could.”

On the other hand, Natchez native Stephen Hollingsworth didn’t tee off until 4 p.m., and only completed two holes before the rain got too heavy.

Hollingsworth said there are pros and cons to his short performance.

“I hit a couple of lose shots, so it was good for me to kind of regroup,” Hollingsworth said.

Though Hollingsworth will get a fresh start today, he now has to complete two rounds of golf in one day to catch up.

“It’ll be tough (today); it’ll be a long day,” he said. “I’ll probably have to play nine hours of golf.”

Nine hours of golf in the heat of the day can be overwhelming for any golfer, but Hollingsworth said he will try not to focus on the longevity of the day, but more on his performance.

“I just have to go out and try to stay patient, because one way or another, I have to play,” he said. “I must drink plenty of water and play patient golf.”

In addition to the extra round he and several other golfers must complete, there is one more obstacle they must face.

With the amount of rain that hit the green Thursday evening, the course may not be dry for a clean game of golf today.

“It’ll make the greens a little more receptive, but also it’ll make shots harder when there is mud on the ball,” Hollingsworth said.