By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Lan Gooch was too busy Saturday running the 25th annual Butch Lambert Invitational to think about today’s championship round.
Gooch, the golf professional at the tournament’s host course, the Natchez Trace Golf Club, fired a 3-under-par 69 – three birdies and 15 pars – to take a one-stroke lead over Bill Donald’s 2-under 70 in the opening round.
“I don’t have time to dwell on missed opportunities or on thinking about (today’s final round),” Gooch said as he worked on pairings for today’s final 18 holes. “That’s a good thing.”
Gooch, the Butch Lambert’s two-time defending champion, is bidding to become the second person to win three consecutive titles. Mark Enis, who recorded an opening-round 73, won the title from 2002 through ’04.
Gooch said he was pleased with his opening round, despite some misses on the green.
“I gave myself some chances today,” he said. “I birdied 18 and that made me feel good. It was a good way to finish because I’d missed a few.”
Enis believes Gooch will be tough to beat.
“If he’d made a few more putts we’d all be playing for second,” he said. “Realistically, he could have shot a 64.
“He left us some rope, but not a lot.”
Donald in the hunt
Donald’s 2-under round featured four birdies, including an 8-foot putt on No. 15. The Natchez Trace member missed a 3-footer on 16 that would have tied him with Gooch.
“I didn’t get in any trouble today,” Donald said. “I only missed one green.”
Donald, whose best finish in the Butch Lambert was 15th last year, says he’s played some of his best golf the last two months.
“I don’t care what I do (today), I just wanted to be in that last group,” he said, then smiled.
Trey Trapp’s a shot back with a 1-under 71 while Enis, Shane Pennington, Victor Suggs, Bobby Parks, Clint Conlee and Chase Williams were all at 1-over 73.
Real super seniors
In the super seniors age division, Trace member Jim Mealer shot a 1-under-par 71 round that included five birdies and one double bogey.
Also in the same division, Al Wiygul registered a 74.
Roger Voyles and Ronnie Fowler recorded 73s to tie for the senior division lead.
In the women’s division, Susan Hayden fired 6-over 78 to hold off Cora Polson and Courtney Donald, who were both four strokes back at 82.
“I had one bad hole, a double bogey on 11,” said the 12-handicap golfer, who’s playing her first stroke-play event in five years. “I actually shot better today than I’ve been playing. It was my best round of the year.”