By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
BELDEN – Alex Rowland will turn 22 Tuesday. He’s looking for an early birthday present.
The former Houston, Itawamba CC and Mississippi State golfer is tied for the lead with a 4-under 68 with former Amory and current Mississippi State golfer Barrett Edens at the Mississippi PGA Trustmark Invitational at Tupelo Country Club.
“The weather was real nice. It wasn’t as hot, which kind of made it a little easier,” Rowland said. “Here lately, it’s been 120 degrees. It wasn’t quite as bad. The course is in great shape. The greens are rolling real smooth.”
Mississippi State is well represented, three of its current golfers in the top four heading into day two of the three-day stroke-play tournament.
Rowland graduates in December and said Friday he will likely turn pro, possibly making this his final event as an amateur. Both leaders had early tee times Friday.
“The greens were a little softer and it was a little easier in the morning,” Edens said. “I got off to a really good start and held it from there.”
At 2-under is MSU sophomore Fletcher Johnson of Tupelo, last year’s runner-up, and Fulton’s Chad Ramey, a junior.
A good start
Rowland eagled his first hole but said he didn’t have a great day with the driver. He will try and take his own advice over the final two days.
“I hit a few bad drives, on the back nine especially, but kind of recovered with good iron shots and putting,” he said.
Friday, he bogeyed 3 and 13, along with a par on No. 9, the three holes he says are key to par to win here.
“Definitely those three are pretty huge,” Edens said. “I think really the key is to stay below the holes, if you can just place the ball well on the greens and putt.”
Only eight golfers are under par after the opening round. Edens, a junior, birdied three holes on the front nine and said he survived the back.
Rowland didn’t play in the event last year but entered the final day two years ago in the top three before falling out of the top 10 on Sunday.
Last year’s winner, Olly Thompson is even par. Thompson beat Johnson in sudden death at the Country Club of Jackson in 2011.