McKinney City Championship: Veteran in lead after first day

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — It’s not Pete Powell’s first rodeo, but he has some younger cowboys gunning for him this weekend.

Powell shot a 5-under 66 to take the lead in day one of the Bill McKinney Memorial City Golf Championship Saturday. Although he has experience on his side — he’s been playing in the tournament off and on since 1975 — he’s well aware of the other players breathing down his back.

“I’ve won 11 times in four different decades, but I have a lot of young competition looking for me. It’s going to be tough, because they can all hit the ball a mile,” Powell said.

The Bill McKinney veteran hit five birdies and no bogeys, and said knowing the course from all his playing years gave him a huge advantage.

“Being able to work the ball both ways is huge. Knowing I can fade it or drop it whenever I need to gives me more room for error,” Powell said.

Powell also said the course was in excellent shape this year, even in light of a few greens that had to be repaired because of vandalism.

“We had a lot of guys in the 60s and 70s, so the scores showed that, overall, the course played pretty well. The only way to have that many low scores is for the course to be playing well,” Powell said.

“A few of the greens were in rough shape, but they had them sanded well, so they did putt OK.”

Keith Rayborn, who shot a 74, said rumors of the vandalized greens’ difficulty were slightly exaggerated.

“The thing I heard was that there were four holes that we just unplayable, and they weren’t,” Rayborn said.

“They had grass, and it kept them playable. The whole course was in great shape.”

Wesley Rogers, who shot a 2-under 69, said his putts weren’t hampered too badly by the damaged greens.

“They weren’t really difficult to play on. All the greens that were damaged really only affected one of my putts.”

Rogers said he started off well, but ran into some trouble after the first couple of holes Saturday.

“I was 2-under through three, and that’s when I started to hiccup. I finished with four birdies and four bogeys, and every bogey I would make, I’d turn around and make a birdie the next hole,” he said.

All 70 slots for the tournament were filled, and Rayborn said tradition is what keeps people coming back year after year.

“I’ve been playing at Duncan Park since I was eight. It’s really just a traditional thing,” Rayborn said.

“I was born and raised in this city, and the city golf tournament is like the Super Bowl of golf tournaments here.”

With one more day to go, Rogers didn’t seem surprised when he heard Powell was worried about the younger golfers on hand.

“He should be,” Rogers said, smiling.

And Rogers has a few ideas on how to pull ahead today.

“I’ll have to arm wrestle him, or make sure I take care of his food,” Rogers joked.