By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BELDEN – Familiarity with a course can help a golfer’s confidence entering a tournament. Just ask 16-year-old Hayden Buckley.
At the halfway point of play in the Pros of Tomorrow Tournament, Buckley holds a six-stroke lead at 5-under-par 67 in the 16-18 division and a five-shot lead overall.
Buckley is a member of the Tupelo High golf team, which calls Tupelo Country Club their home course during the season.
“Yeah I know the greens well,” Buckley said, “but you still gotta play though.”
Beginning on the front nine, Buckley knocked in a birdie on the first hole that set the tone for the day.
“Starting out with a birdie, it’s always something that you can use to continue to play good,” he said. “I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and when you can do that it’s a lot easier to play.”
After finishing the front-nine four strokes under par, Buckley had a slip up on No. 11 during his tee shot and recorded a double bogey.
But Buckley composed himself and made three more birdies down the stretch, including one on the final hole thanks to two solid approach shots and a nice putt, to close the first round.
“I hit that putt a little too hard, but got lucky to hit the dead center of the cup and for it to go in. But I’ll take it,” said Buckley, who had five birdies and an eagle on the day.
The course at Tupelo Country Club proved a difficult one for the majority of golfers on a blustery day. Buckley was the lone entrant in all divisions to finish below par for the day.
“Usually every time people come to this tournament the scores are pretty high,” said Austin Rose, son of TCC pro Jim Rose. “The greens are fast and the wind was blowing today. It’s a pretty tough golf course if your not used to it.”
Tupelo’s Austin Rose, Kosciusko’s Austin Terrell and Vicksburg’s Nick Mekus all finished the first round with 73s to tie for second place. Those three, plus Buckley, will all tee off around 10 a.m. this morning on the final day of play.
Haynes Horsley and Wilson Furr each tallied the second highest score of the day, finishing at even-par 72, to co-lead the 14-15 division.