Hollingsworth, Jones take two-stroke lead

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jackson Bryant hits a tee shot during the Wharlest Jackson Golf Scramble Saturday afternoon at Beau Pré Country Club in Natchez. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Stephen Hollingsworth and Howard Jones teamed up to light up the golf course at Beau Pré Country Club in similar fashion to what Rory McIlroy did last weekend at the 111th U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.

Hollingsworth and Jones was part of the opening pairing Saturday morning and shot an opening-round 14-under-par 58 to take a two-shot lead over Jeff Anderson and Casey Ham in the championship flight of the 2011 Wharlest-Jackson Elks Lodge Scramble.

“We played well. Howard was hitting it straight enough that I played aggressively,” Hollingsworth said. “He and I mesh well when we play. We got to play with Jack Benson and Bub Mullins, and we enjoyed playing with them. There’s still a lot of golf to be played.”

Chad Huber tries to sink a putt during the Wharlest Jackson Golf Scramble Saturday afternoon at Beau Pré Country Club in Natchez. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

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The first round leading team finished with 14 birdies and four pars. They escaped with a par on No. 15 after landing their second shots short of the green. But they could have an even lower score if they were able to convert eagle putts on a pair of par-5 holes – No. 8 and No. 18. Instead, they had to settle for two-putt birdies on those holes.

“Howard hit it well. He also putted well. I didn’t have to make too many putts,” Hollingsworth said. “Tom Matthews does a good job running this tournament. We’re looking forward to (today).”

Anderson and Ham shot a bogey-free round of 12-under-par 60 to get themselves in contention.

It was a good team effort. Doc rolled in some putts. Hit some good shots, too,” Ham said. “We picked each other up when we needed it. The course played good.”

Four teams sit five shots back at 9-under-par 63 to round out the championship flight — Jordan and Henry Farmer; Gary and Trevor Farmer; Craig Bradford and Jerry Beauchamp; and Avery Middleton and Steve Scarborough.

“We got off to a real slow start. We didn’t get our first birdie until No. 6,” Middleton said. “After 6, we got going. We went 9-under the last 13 holes. The first five holes we couldn’t get it close. We didn’t make anything.”

Three teams sit atop the first flight at 8-under-par 64 — Mike Henry and Bob Flurry; Robin Punches and Dan Bland; and Tripp and Jackson Bryant. The scoring was so good on Saturday that a round of 6-under-par 66 ended up atop the second flight. And two teams — Philip and Plez West as well as Chad Huber and Joel Lessley — are leading that flight.

Matthews, the tournament director, said the field for this year’s tournament is real good. There are 30 teams participating in the two-man scramble this year, which is up from 26 teams a year ago.

“The more people we have, the more money (for scholarships) we give to high school graduates who play golf and go to college. That’s what this is all about,” Matthews said. “We have a lot of people who sponsor this and a lot of volunteers who help us work this tournament. We’ve been doing this for (more than) 15 years.

“Beau Pré members really come out and support this tournament. It’s going to get bigger. We’ve also got kids who have already graduated from high school who are playing in this. Tom Bryant, the general manager, and Dee Barron, the greens superintendent, do a great job in helping us get ready for this.”

Today’s final round will have an 8:30 a.m. shotgun start.