By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
The Emerald Coast Golf Tour returned to TP Country Club for the second-straight year on Tuesday, as its players teed it up for yet another mid-summer tournament.
After one round of action, it was Will Dottley who found himself on top of the leaderboard, as the Greenville, Miss., native fired a 3-under round of 69 to take a one-shot lead over Chase Blaich. Britt Pavelonis (71), Layne Rice (72), Patrick Drake (72) and Kyle Sapp (72) rounded out the top five.
Dottley got off to a slow start before catching fire toward the end of his round. After playing his first eight holes at 3-over par, Dottley eagled the par 5 ninth, before carding four birdies on the back nine to break 70 by a single shot.
“He played a great round of golf,” said Sapp, who played alongside his longtime competitor and good friend. “Six under on your last 10 holes is really good golf.”
As the 2013 money leader on the Emerald Coast Tour, Sapp knows a thing or two about winning himself, having already taken home two titles so far this season.
With his family stationed in Hanceville, Sapp has been able to play TP numerous times over the years. He said the course is in perfect playing shape and suits his game quite well.
“It sets up well for me,” he said. “I like bentgrass greens and this course has some of the best I’ve seen. They were a little slower than they looked today. I left a lot of putts dead in the jaws, but just a little short. All in all, I’m thrilled to only be three back heading into Wednesday.”
Like Dottley, Sapp was unable to get anything going early in his round and, after 14 holes, sat at 2-over par.
Fortunately for him, however, he was able to get it going late, birdieing two of his final four holes to claw back to even.
“I threw away some shots today,” Sapp said. “But I’ve gotten off to slow starts before this year. It’s all about where you finish, though.”
Joining Sapp at even par was Drake. The TP director of golf and club professional said he hit the ball well all day long, despite being unable to score as well as he would have liked.
The culprit — his putter.
“I just didn’t make any putts today,” Drake said. “I hit the ball great, but just couldn’t get any to fall.”
Drake’s main goal, however, was making sure his course was in tip-top shape heading into this week’s play.
If Tuesday’s whisperings were any indication, it was a job well done for him and his crew.
“Everyone who’s come up to me has said how great the course looks,” he said. “That’s always good to hear.”
The Cullman Pro-Am Summer Classic will get under way today with a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 136 or at email@example.com.