A four-under-par 68 by junior Tyler McKeever enabled the Tigers to finish the first of three rounds at one-under-part 287 on Friday. Four straight birdies on holes five through eight were the key to his strong round.
"We could have scored better, but it was a solid first round to get on the scoreboard," said Auburn Coach Mike Griffin, whose 13th-ranked Tigers have a five-stroke lead over 18th-ranked College of Charleston in the 12-team event. Arkansas, ranked 21st, and unranked Georgia State are tied at third with 294 totals. Vandy, which is ranked 24th, is fifth at 296 and is followed by FSU (298), UAB (301), Southeastern Louisiana (302), Mississippi State (306), Memphis (307), Ole Miss (311) and Alabama (312).
Tyler McKeever is shown during Friday's action.
McKeever, an Auburn native who competed as freshman and sophomore at Georgia Southern, grew up playing on the Saugahatchee Country Club course and used his local knowledge to take a one-stroke edge over Bruce McDonald of College of Charleston and Nathan Turner of UAB in the individual competition. "I started kind of slow with a par on the first hole and a silly bogey on two," he said. "After I made a birdie on number five, things started going well for me."
Junior Lee Williams of Alexander City shot a 71 and is tied for fourth. Senior Jay Mundy and freshman Stuart Moore are tied for 16th with a 74. Sophomore Will Claxton is tied for 31st with a 76.
Auburn freshman Matthew Myers and four other teammates are competing as individuals. Myers is tied for fourth place with a 71. Jonathan Dismuke, a junior, and freshman Andrew Medley shot 72 and are tied for eighth. Sophomore Manuel Offermanns and junior Lee Wilson are tied for 24th at 75.
Coach Mike Griffin
"I was real proud of Tyler McKeever," Griffin said. "He played real well when we practiced out here last week when we finally had some weather we could practice in. I am not surprised he had a good day. I am proud for him because he wants to play well in the Hitchcock for a couple of reasons--the name Hitchcock and the fact that this is the course he grew up on.
"Lee Williams is playing well, too," Griffin noted. "They are members of my ‘Alabama Gang,' two Alabama boys. In our last tournament, the Chris Schenkel (in Statesboro, Ga.), our Georgia boys played well. Now we are in Alabama are our Alabama boys are playing well and kind of picking each other up.
"Will Claxton, who is unquestionably playing the best golf on the team in the spring, had a bad day, but it was no big deal. I have been proud of the way he is playing and he will probably come back and have a good round on Saturday.
The three-day event will run through Sunday. Auburn, the defending champion, will tee off at 10:40 a.m. on Saturday.
"It was a solid round--not spectacular--from Stuart Moore and Jay Mundy," Griffin said. "Jay played at about two-over most of the day. I think he got it back at one time, but lost it back again. Stuart struggled a little bit out there. He got off to a good start then had a bad hole followed by a couple of poor holes and the first thing you know he was three-over-par. He ends up picking up a couple more bogeys and is five-over, but he picked up three shots coming in. That was very big. I was real proud of him after that. He holed an eight iron on No. 17 for an eagle. That is the first time we have done that this year. I know we have had that done against us a couple of times."
Waymon Reese of Statesboro, Ga., (front right) prepares a Friday night feast for the golfers, coaches and others at the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate.