Agbasis even par leads at Harvest tour

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 3, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; Despite good weather and ideal course conditions, no one broke even in the first round of the 31st annual Harvest Club Open at Duncan Park &8212; a far cry from the nearly half-dozen players who shot in the 60s in last year&8217;s first round.

In fact, only one player among the 111 players in this year&8217;s tournament was able to shoot an even-par 71 Saturday &8212; Obie Agbasi, a golf pro at Chenault Golf Club in Monroe, La., who ended up with a one-shot lead.

&8220;He can play,&8221; said Willie Richardson of Jackson. &8220;He&8217;s a nice guy. He can hit the ball well. His iron game is accurate and he&8217;s a good putter, so I&8217;m not surprised at all. I think back to five or six years ago when I played with him and he couldn&8217;t break 100.&8221;

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Agbasi started his round on fire as he had three birdies on the front nine. He birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 9 to go with six pars for a front-nine, three-under par 33.

Agbasi struggled on the back nine despite birdies on No. 10 and No. 14. He had bogeys on Nos. 11, 13 and 15 and a double bogey on No. 18 for a back-nine score of three-over 38.

Terry Pierce of Baton Rouge is only one shot back in the championship flight after shooting a 1-over-par 72. Pierce had birdies on Nos. 2 and 4 and a bogey on No. 3 on the front nine to go with just one birdie (No. 11) and three bogeys (Nos. 12, 17 and 18) on the back nine.

Four players are just two shots back and in a tie for third place &8212; Richardson; John Bates who is originally from Natchez and is a retired police officer who now lives in Spring, Texas; Sylvester Hoskin of Memphis; and Jerry Scales.

&8220;I had a real bad hole on No. 4,&8221; Richardson said. &8220;I thought the flag was on the back and it was on the front. I ended up with a 6 on that hole. I parred the rest of the holes (on the front nine) except No. 9.

Richardson had two birdies (Nos. 16 and 18) to go with one bogey (No. 14) on the back nine.

Bates&8217; round included two eagles. On No. 2, Bates&8217;s drive went 280 yards, but it went left over a bunker and into the trees. He got out of trouble with a 3-iron from 220 yards out that landed just eight feet from the hole. He made a tricky right-to-left put for an eagle-3. On No. 9, he hit his tee shot with a driver and landed on the green and made a 30-foot putt for an eagle-2.

&8220;I had a couple of double bogeys and a few bogeys,&8221; Bates said. &8220;I ended up with a 73. I could&8217;ve easily shot a 65.&8221;

Among those who are tied for seventh place at 3-over 74 is Rufus Fisher of St. Rose, La., who had four birdies &8212; three on the front nine &8212; to go with two double bogeys and a triple bogey.

&8220;Up and down,&8221; Fisher said. &8220;It was interesting. I was halfway pleased with it. I had a couple of bad holes, but I had a lot of good holes. I birdied a bunch of holes, but I also had a lot of double bogeys. That (triple bogey on what was No. 18, but for this tournament is No. 15) hurt.&8221;

In this tournament, the holes are set up differently. For instance, No. 9 is not the par-3 9th hole. And No. 10 is not the difficult par-5 10th hole. It is actually a par-3 hole.