First-year jitters? Those are non-existent to Sunny King Charity Classic top contenders Jacob LeCroy and Jacob Harper.
“Wow. We just shot 20 under,” LeCroy said coming in from the Silver Lakes course Friday afternoon.
In the duo’s first time to pair up in the Sunny King, and Harper’s first time competing at Silver Lakes, they set a tournament record — 20-under par for a score of 52, which leads the three-day tournament by three strokes. Cody Robinson and Barrett Waters in a second-place tie with Logan and Randy Archer, as both teams shot 17 under.
The record before Friday was 18-under par with a score of 54, achieved in 2013 by Adrian Geeting and Kenny Wright, and again in 2014 by Freeman Fite and Gary Wigington.
“We played pretty good," LeCroy said Friday. You can’t shoot 20 under with one person."
Teamwork played a large part on the green for Harper-LeCroy, with both golfers giving each other credit for Friday’s success. According to LeCroy, Harper “put on a show,” but Harper simply said their playing strategy is “very similar.”
“His game is good,” Harper said. “He drives the ball good, and he putted really well today.”
Other golfers in the Championship A flight were aware of the duo’s score, too, expressing their astonishment to the Star and other golfers in the Silver Lake clubhouse.
“Them young kids are out there lighting it up,” Jeremy McGatha said.
McGatha teed off at 7 a.m. Friday morning with five-year teammate Brennan Clay. The pair tied for 10th in last year’s tournament, and are currently tied for fourth place with Dalton and Ott Chandler after the first day. McGatha-Clay shot 16-under par with a score of 56, six strokes better than last year’s score of 62.
Despite a better performance, McGatha described Friday as “all right.” According to him, they started off slow with a birdie and two pars. Clay then hit an eagle on the 10th hole, and they finished the last six holes “great,” according to McGatha.
“We did what we were supposed to do,” McGatha said, “We missed a few we shouldn’t have, but made a few.”
McGatha is looking forward to today's contest at Cider Ridge for two reasons: another day to gain some ground and an 8:30 a.m. tee-off time.
“I like 8:30 better than 7. I’m not a dew sweeper,” McGatha laughed.
Sixth-place team Cory Etter and Caleb Bowen also had an early tee-time of 7:10 a.m., but Etter thought that played to his team’s benefit.
“Playing early helps a lot because of weather,” Etter said of July’s high temperatures and the potential storms coming through Friday afternoon.
An early start time did prove to work in their favor, hitting 15-under par for a first-day score of 57 — four strokes better than last year’s performance, which contributed to an Etter-Bowen second-place finish.
Even though Etter said they “played real good” Friday, he and Bowen were well aware of the team everyone else has their eyes on … Harper and LeCroy.
“Harper is probably the best player in the state,” Etter said, deeming Harper-LeCroy the “team to beat” before they even finished at Silver Lakes on Friday.
While most of the other golfers seemed to have a laser-sharp focus on the Harper-LeCroy show, Gary Wigington and Ty Cole, Sunny King champions for the past three years, were not focusing on the frontrunners and their record-breaking performance.
Their focus was on their game, but according to Wigington, they "couldn’t get anything going.” That landed Wigington-Cole in a three-way tie for seventh place with Blake Mozley and Clint Compton, and Jackson King and Tyler Huckaby after hitting 13-under par, producing a score of 59.
“We knew they were playing good when we teed off but you’ll always have a couple of good rounds in the first day,” Wigington said. “It was really up to us. If we played our game, we could’ve been right in there with 16- or 17-under par.”
Wigington described Friday’s performance with Cole as “probably our worst performance since we started playing together.”
“We both struggled all day. Couldn’t get anything going. Hit bad, putt bad. Just couldn’t get it done today,” Wigington said.
While Friday's round didn’t pan out the way the reigning champions wanted it to, Wigington is looking forward to today's contest at Cider Ridge.
“The course is a good format to make up some ground, so we are just going to stay aggressive and try to play as well as we can and hope that we play better,” Wigington said.
Wigington-Cole could have an advantage over Harper-LeCroy on Saturday because Harper has competed at Cider Ridge only one time. Because of his lack of experience on that particular course, Harper plans to use LeCroy’s familiarity to their advantage.
“We’re just going to play smart and play together. One person can’t win this tournament,” Harper said. “Got to get it going again tomorrow.”
Harper-LeCroy tee off Saturday at 8:31 a.m. Their goal is to break the modern scoring record of 43 under for the three-day tournament.
“We’re going to try our best to beat it,” LeCroy said.