By David Wheeler/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Rickey Riley of Fulton has been playing a lot of golf lately.
Hitting the ball well, having fun playing, but not putting all that effectively.
That changed Saturday at the Natchez Trace Golf Course.
Riley turned in five birdies in route to a 4-under-par 68 to grab the first round lead in the Butch Lambert Memorial Invitational by two shots.
“I’ve been playing good, but finally scored well,” said Riley, who finished in fourth in the 2010 Mississippi State Am at Jackson Country Club. “But there’s still a long way to go, and there are some good players here.”
Chasing Riley are two players at 2-under – Scotty Patterson of Pontotoc and Vince Hodges of Tupelo. Another stroke back at 1-under was three-time champion (2007-09) and Trace club pro Lan Gooch, and Nick Armstrong of Baldwyn.
Another pair of golfers stood at even par – Jack Dilworth of Tupelo and Stephen Poole of Saltillo. Heading up a trio at 2-over was 1996 winner Ken Hogue, and three-time winner (2002-04) and Tupelo High School golf coach Mark Enis was part of a pack of five golfers at 3-over.
Defending champion Bo Reed soared to an 82 over the tough Trace course, which was playing at 6,609 yards Saturday.
Riley began the day with birdies on two of his first three holes – a two-putt birdie on the par 5 No. 1, and then a birdie on No. 3, a par 4. He turned with a birdie on the par 5 No. 10, but followed that with his only bogey of the day on the dogleg par 4 No. 11.
Riley then finished strong, with birdies on the par 4 No. 16, and the par 3 No. 17.
“No. 17 was a good birdie,” Riley said. “It appeared to be playing about 198, 199 yards, and I eventually decided to choke down on a 4-iron, and actually hit a good shot.”
Patterson was in one of the first groups off, in order to attend a wedding later in the day. His round of 70 featured one more birdie than Riley – six, three on each side – while surviving four bogeys, and he was the leader in the clubhouse for most of the afternoon.
“It was enjoyable, I’ll have to admit,” Patterson said. “I drove the ball well and putted well.
“The course was playing great, and it’s always good to get six birdies at the Trace.”
Also tied with Patterson, Hodges round was perhaps the most consistent of the leaders with no bogeys and birdies on Nos. 4 and 10.
Gooch also had a high total of birdies with six, three on each side. But he also had a quadruple bogey on the par 4 No. 5.
“I hit two out-of-bounds on that hole, other than that, I’m happy with the round,” Gooch said. “As little as I play, I really can’t what if this round, I just enjoyed getting out and playing.”
Riley, Hodges, Patterson, and Gooch tee off at 1:20 p.m.; with Armstrong, Poole, Dilworth, and Alan Boone (2-over) going at 1:10 p.m.
n Scores, tee times, Page 2B