By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
After a strong showing at the Emerald Coast Golf Tournament this past week, Patrick Drake was eager to get back on the links this weekend for the Buck Shear Memorial Tournament at Cullman Golf Course.
For good reason, too.
The director of golf and club professional at TP Country Club caught fire Saturday afternoon en route to a 7-under round of 65, good enough for a one-shot lead after Day 1.
Drake is a three-time winner of the event, including a two-shot victory a year ago, and said something about the course just works well together with his game.
“I hit the ball great, and the putts were falling today,” he said. “I always play well here it seems. The course is in great shape. I just enjoy playing here and tend to make putts here as well.”
The former Cullman High and Wallace State golfer birdied four of his first six holes and four of his final six holes to surge to the top of the leaderboard after round one.
He maintains a one-shot lead over Billy Connor (66) and a five-shot lead over Sylas Elliott (70), who currently resides alone in third place in the 49-man field.
Steve Smith, Eli Marty and Todd Lindsey (a six-time winner of the event) all shot rounds of 71 to join the top three in today’s “Championship A” flight.
The “Championship B” flight consists of Matt Easterwood and Layne Rice (73); and Mark Aderhold, Blake Woo, Dan York and Rene Williams (74).
Drake is hoping to build a bit of a winning streak at one of his favorite events of the year, but said being able to come out and challenge the younger players to do better is what it’s all about for him.
“I’d like to extend it,” he said. “But I really like coming out and playing with Sylas, Eli, Layne and some of the younger guys. I’m just trying to push them.”
That doesn’t mean he won’t be looking to distance himself from them when he tees it up for his final 18 holes.
“Being the defending champ is great,” Drake added. “I hope I can win it again. It’s a tournament everyone here in Cullman wants to win.”
Although this year’s winner has yet to be determined, one thing remains clear during the 31st running of the annual tournament — people in the Cullman community love it.
Joey Shear, the grandson of Buck Shear, comes to play in the tournament every year — despite living in Destin, Fla. — to commemerate the grandfather he never got a chance to know.
“It’s an honor for me,” he said. “Me and my dad (Buddy) look forward to playing in it every year. Every time I play in it with my dad, it makes me feel closer to my grandfather, even though he died two years before I was born.
“Ches (Harris) and them do a great job every year for this tournament. I can’t thank them enough.”
Buck Shear played a large role in bringing golf to Cullman and the surrounding areas, and for golfers like Drake — who’s constantly trying to get more people involved in the sport — it never goes unnoticed.
“What the Shear family has done locally for golf over the years has been great,” Drake said. “They’re wonderful people, and we’d all like to continue supporting them as well.”
Today’s opening tee time is set for 8 a.m., while the final foursome of Drake, Connor, Elliott and Smith will tee off at three hours later at 11 a.m.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.