ROME, Ga. — Sophomore Tyler Smith continued to play the best golf of his young career and it helped pay huge dividends for Lee in the opening round of the Rome News-Tribune Invitational.
Smith blistered the challenging Stonebridge course with a 5-under par 67 on Monday afternoon. “Tyler came through with a big time round today,” said coach John Maupin, who was thrilled with the play of his team in their second tournament appearance of the season. “I think he was 7-under on his last 10 holes, which is outstanding play.”
Freshman Hunter Vest fired an impressive 2-under 70. “Hunter had a very good round as well. It makes a huge difference when you have guys getting in the red.” added the coach. JB Eksteen followed with a 1-over 73 and Jeremy Lawson carded a 2-over 74. Maupin admitted it’s nice when his Flames can throw away a 4-over 76 that was recorded by Matt Emery.
All totaled, the Flames (284) are five strokes in front of the University of the Cumberlands (289). The Cumberlands won the Lee Invitational last week. LaGrange (293) is third, host Shorter University stands at 295 and Reinhardt and Berry College round out the top five at 296.
Surprisingly, Smith’s 67 was not the top score of the afternoon. Berry College’s Alex Irvin recorded a 66. There were also two holes-in-one fired in the opening 18 holes and none involved the tournament leading Flames.
While Smith is one stroke back heading into the final 18 holes on Tuesday, Vest is alone in third place. Eksteen is tied for 14th and Lawson is tied for 20th.
”We played well today, I was particularly pleased that we came out so focused. I think it is important for us to get off to a good start,” the coach noted. “Overall, it was a great start to the tournament, and I’m looking forward to seeing us put together a good round tomorrow.”