TERRI PINES —
Faced with a 10-foot eagle attempt on the 18th hole, Good Hope’s Eli Marty stalked the uphill putt with as much focus and intensity as he had on every other putt during his round on Wednesday afternoon.
Although he left it a couple of inches short, Marty wasn’t the least bit frustrated. Instead, he calmly tapped in his birdie to finish with a spectacular 7-under round of 65 on the first day of the Cullman County Golf Tournament at TP Country Club.
“I wanted to make it, but I knew it was short when I hit it,” Marty said. “I switched putters on Tuesday just to see how it felt, and it made a big difference. I made a lot of putts today.”
The sweet-swinging lefty was solid from tee to green during Day 1, hitting his irons right on the number to leave him with short, makeable birdie putts. He ended his round with a remarkable eight birdies to just one bogey.
Raider coach David Husley was blown away by Marty’s performance.
“He shot the round he’s capable of today,” he said. “He’s a great ballstriker, and when his putting comes together, he can put together days like this more often.”
Marty’s 65 left him 10 clear of the next golfer heading into the final day of play, as the junior will look to capture his second-straight low-medalist honor at the county tournament when he tees off Thursday at the Cullman Golf Course.
“I want to win it really bad,” he said. “Last year, it felt good to come back and win it, but tomorrow, it will be a different perspective. I just need to go out and play my game.”
Added Hulsey: “We talked about it after his round today. He’s not going to play conservative. He’s going to attack holes. He knows he can’t lay back because there are too many good golfers than can catch him.”
One of those golfers is Fairview’s Trey Hanvey, who played alongside Marty and fired a 75, which very well could have been the best round on any other day.
“I played all right,” the Aggie sophomore said. “Could have shot a little better, though. Eli played great. I just need to sharpen up my wedges and putting tomorrow so I can make a run.”
Backed by Marty’s incredible round, defending-champion Good Hope finished the day at the top with a team score of 333, followed closely by Holly Pond (337) and Cold Springs (338). West Point (441) and Hanceville (494) followed in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
With 18 holes to go, Hulsey knows this year’s county title is still very much up in the air.
“I am ecstatic that we are in first place after day one,” Hulsey said. “But I know tomorrow those two teams that are on our heels will give us everything they have and be tough to beat. There’s still a lot of golf to be played.”
Bronco coach Mark Cornelius was proud of his team’s efforts following Wednesday’s round of golf.
“We did pretty good today,” he said. “Shot our lowest team score of the year. Last year, we led after Day 1 but didn’t close it out. Hopefully we can come out Thursday and put two good days together and win it.”
Colby Adams’ 79 and Branden Walker’s 80 helped spark Holly Pond to its second-place showing.
For Cold Springs, No. 1 Layne Rice fought off a shaky day with the flat stick to finish with a round of 81 to tie teammate Nick Speer. Michael Gilliland carded an 82 to help the Eagles secure third heading into Thursday.
“We didn’t play as well as we’d have liked today,” Cold Springs’ coach Adam McKinnon said. “It’s good to be in striking distance, though. Layne is going to play a good round for us tomorrow, no doubt about it.”
With heavy winds forecasted for Thursday, scoring conditions are likely to be tougher as players get ready to head out.
Marty, who’s played Cullman Golf Course “hundreds of times”, said he’s ready to get back out there and compete.
“I just need to hit it low and keep checking the wind,” he said. “I thank God cause He blessed me with all this, and He let me come out here and play today.”
Following Marty and Hanvey, the rest of the top 10 is as follows: Adams, Holly Pond, 79; Walker, Good Hope, 80; Rice, Cold Springs, 81; Speer, Cold Springs, 81; Gilliland, Cold Springs, 82; Kainan Smith, Good Hope, 83; Hanson Hines, individual, 84; and Cole Pearson, Good Hope, 86.
Fairview and West Point battled it out for the top spot on the junior varsity side. However, only 14 holes were scored due to inclement weather late in the day.
James Arnold’s 63 was good for the low score, helping Fairview take a slight lead over the Warriors.
Maci Yeager (71) and Abbi Yeager (74) were tops on the girls’ side after 13 holes to help the Aggies take a commanding lead over Hanceville. Cold Springs’ Macy Hinds carded a 76.
The final round is slated to begin at 1 p.m. at the Cullman Golf Course.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.