Fairways make for good first round

Published 12:05 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

NATCHEZ — Defending champion K.G. Watkins will have to do some serious catching up today if he is to win his second straight Bill McKenney Memorial Men’s City Golf Championship.

That’s because Pete Powell, the 11-time champion of the most prestigious golf tournament in the area, shot a 4-under-par 67 to take the lead at the end of the first round Saturday at the Duncan Park Golf Course.

“Played pretty good. I made a putt for birdie on the first hole and kind of got feel for the speed of the greens,” Powell said. “I had it to 5-under until I bogeyed the last hole. I had two bogeys and six birdies. The course is in excellent shape. The fairways are as good as they’ve ever been. I was pleased with it. I live up in Illinois now, so I don’t play much.”

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Had it not been for several short putts that didn’t find the hole, Jordan Farmer would have had a better score than his even-par 71 that put him four shot back of Powell.

“I struggled early. I wasn’t hitting the ball solid and had a bad start,” Farmer said. “I missed four putts inside six feet. I started hitting the ball better on the back nine, but I still couldn’t get any putts to fall. I left a lot out there today.”

Farmer bogeyed the par-5 5th hole only to come back with a birdie on No. 6. He gave a stroke back with a bogey on the par-3 9th hole and then dropped to 2-over on his round with a bogey on No. 13. However, he got his round back to even par with birdies on 14 and 16.

Watkins, who shot a 4-under 67 in the first round en route to winning the City Championship by five shots a year ago, struggled in a three-hole stretch and really never recovered on Saturday as he finished with a round of 4-over 75.

After a par on No. 1, Watkins then had problems on the next three holes. He double-bogeyed No. 5 and then had back-to-back bogeys on 6 and 7. Watkins made up two shots with birdies on 11 and 12, only to bogey 16 and 18, but salvaged his round with a birdie on No. 4, which is the next-to-last hole of play.

Joining Watkins with a 75 is George Hude, who had three birdies and had the clubhouse lead for a while.

“I birdied the first hole, then triple-bogeyed the second hole, No. 5,” Hude said. “I hit the ball great. The wedge is what saved me. My putting was better than average. I normally shoot 80 from the whites and I shot 75 from the blues.”

M.C. Foster went from one putter to another during his round and wound up with a 6-over 77.

“It was hot and humid. I played good golf today,” Foster said. “My driver was doing good. I was experimenting with a long putter and I found out that it did not do well on the short putts. So in the middle of my round, I switched to a regulation putter. The course played long. All in all, the course is in excellent condition.”