Lessley in lead at Bill McKenney tourney

Published 12:15 am Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bubba Bruce, right, and George Hude watch Bruce’s ball down the fairway of the 12th hole Saturday morning while competing in the Bill McKenney City Championship golf tournament. (Lauren Wood \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Four of the five players sitting atop the leaderboard after the completion of the first round of the 2012 Bill McKenney Memorial City Golf Championship are in prime position to win this tournament yet again.

Three-time champion Jay Lessley leads the championship after a blistering round of 6-under-par 65. Lessley, the 2000, 2003 and 2009 champion, had five birdies, an eagle on No. 12 and a bogey on No. 3.

And his score could have been even lower if had done better on the par-5 holes. He only birdied one of those three holes — No. 10. He had pars on No. 5 and No. 14.

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Wesley Rogers, the 2010 champion, and Kevin Smith Jr., the 1997 champion, are tied for second place at 4-under-par 67. Yet both had different paths to get to that score.

Rogers eagled No. 1 and birdied all three of the aforementioned par-5 holes to get to 5-under-par. However, he dropped a shot after a bogey on No. 16.

Smith got off to a slow start as he was at 1-over-par after a bogey on No. 3 before getting back to even par on the round with a birdie on No. 7. Then he went on a roll.

“I made a putt from the front of the green for eagle on No. 10. I made a few putts coming in,” Smith said.

After the eagle on 10 got him to 2-under for the day, he birdied No. 12 only to double-bogey the difficult par-3 13th hole to fall back to 1-under. But birdies on 14, 16 and 17 got back on track and back in contention.

“My round was pretty solid. I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” Smith Jr. said.

Lee Jones, who won this tournament back in 2002, is in fourth place at 3-under-par 68.

“I made five birdies and one eagle on 14. I made a few mistakes, but I’m happy with the way I played,” Jones said.

However, other former city champions did not fare so well. Defending champion and Duncan Park Golf Course Superintendent Greg Brooking shot 1-over-par 72. Eleven-time champion Pete Powell struggled in a round of 73. K.G. Watkins, the 2006 champion, shot 75 and four-time champion P.Z. Brewer finished with a round of 76.

“I made a few bad swings today. Otherwise, I had a good round,” said Brooking, who had two birdies and three bogeys. “Duncan Park makes you pay a severe penalty for a bad shot.”

Tee times for today’s final round start at 8 a.m.