Having competed in the Chattanooga Choo Choo Invitational on three previous occasions, Clay Amlung was fully aware of the penal consequences of errant shots around the undulating greens at Council Fire Golf Club.
So with a keen understanding of the dangers of a misfire, the fifth-year University of Cincinnati golfer solved the dilemma on Monday – he hit all 18 greens in regulation. His accuracy with his irons resulted in an 8-under 64 to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the 54-hole event.
Amlung, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, recorded eight birdies – including all five of the par 5s – and had no blemishes on his scorecard to tie his personal best round.
“I played a very clean round. I hit all 18 greens and only missed two fairways, so I never put myself in position for bogeys. I only put myself in tough situations on the greens a couple of times, but was able to convert those,” Amlung said.
Amlung has a pair of top ten finishes in the Choo Choo to his credit, but was thrilled with his performance on a sweltering afternoon.
“This is the first time leading a tournament of this stature, and it feels good to be on top of the leaderboard,” Amlung said. “My plan is to bring the same mentality to the course tomorrow, to execute my shots and not worry about the other competitors.”
Murfeesboro’s Spencer Provow trails by one shot, carding a 7-under 65 highlighted by a fast start with birdies on four of his first six holes. Provow, 37, has recently returned to competitive golf after taking a decade sabbatical to focus on his career and family.
Provow earned one of the ten open slots by finishing seventh in last Friday’s qualifier. He last played at Council Fire in a state junior tournament twenty years ago.
“I hope it’s not another 20 years before I play this golf course, because it is absolutely spectacular,” Provow said. “I got off to a great start and was consistent all day, missing only one green. When you hit fairways and greens, golf becomes a lot easier.”
Having played collegiately at Valdosta State and MTSU, Provow was energized by competing with golfers half his age.
“I’d love to win, especially being away from the game while my wife, Rebecca, and I raise our little girls,” Provow said. “But I’m looking forward to seeing if a 37-year old stacks up against a bunch of college kids. Regardless of the outcome, this was a special day.”
With the front and back nines flipped at Council Fire for this event, University of Tennessee golfer Tyler Johnson eagled the fourth hole to finish as one of four competitors at 6-under 66. Lindsey Cordell, a Rome, Georgia native who competes for Georgia Southern, carded a 66 as well with two eagles while Andrew Farraye and Noah Gillard also shot 6-under.
Defending champion Hogan Ingram, who also hails from Rome, started well by getting to 3-under after five holes. But the incoming Georgia Southern freshman was able to post only one more birdie and logged a pair of double-bogeys to finish at 2-over 74, ten shots off the lead.
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Paul Payne can be contacted by email at email@example.com or via Twitter @Paul_A_Payne
Chattanooga Choo Choo Invitational
First Round Results
Played at Council Fire Golf Club
1. Clay Amlung 64 -8
2. Spencer Provow 65 -7
T3. Tyler Johnson 66 -6
T3. Lindsey Cordell 66 -6
T3. Andrew Farraye 66 -6
T3. Noah Gillard 66 -6
7. Ethan Hagood 67 -5
T8. Robbie Morway 68 -4
T8. Nick Wolf 68 -4
T8. Michael Shears 68 -4
T8. Connor Pollman 68 -4
T8. Dax Isbell 68 -4