BRASELTON — Grant Cagle, a student at Johnson High School, raced out to the early lead, battling dreary, morning conditions to shoot a blistering 3-under-par 33 on the front nine, propelling him to a first-round 2-under-par 69 for a one-shot cushion in the boys division of the Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan.
Jessica Welch shot an even-par 71 to take the first-round lead in the girls division and will be teeing off with a 5-shot lead when final-round play begins today.
The Preseason Junior at Chateau Elan is a 36-hole tournament conducted by the American Junior Golf Association at Chateau Elan — Chateau Course in Braselton. The tournament field consists of 95 boys and girls, ages 12-18, from 14 states.
In his first AJGA event, it took little time for Cagle to begin his onslaught of the Chateau Course, as he birdied the first hole, along with Nos. 3, 5 and 9, to finish a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine. He followed with a 1-over-par 36 on the back side, taking the first-round lead in the process.
"I felt pretty good about my game today. I started the round out well with a birdie, and that really helped get things going," Cagle said.
"I need to putt better tomorrow. A couple times I three or four-putted, but if I play this well again tomorrow, I would be pretty happy with my game."
Austin Vick of Evans, is just one shot back of Cagle in second at 1-under-par 70, following a mistake-free 1-under-par 34 on the back nine. Also on the leader’s heels are David Novinger of Knoxville, Tenn., and Jordan Weede of Greenville, S.C., at even-par 71. Tyler Shellnut of Franklin, Tenn., Michael Garretson of Acworth, Nick Willenborg of Knoxville, Tenn., Henry Mabbett of Griffin, Tyler Duke of Augusta, and Noori Hyun of Centreville, Va., follow in a tie for fifth at 1-over-par 72.
North Hall student Landry Haynes shot a 76 on Sunday.
Welch, a class of 2011 member from Lavonia, playing in her first AJGA event, started off hot and ended the round scorching, opening with a first-hole birdie and finishing with birdies on two of the final four holes — Nos. 15 and 17. No. 17 was especially important for Welch, whose second shot landed just off the green, but she chipped in for an unexpected birdie, giving her a 2-under-par 33 on the back and sole possession of the lead.
"It was fun. I managed to stick a few irons pretty close," Welch said. "I’m going to try to get a good night’s sleep, not think too hard, and play my game tomorrow."
And if Welch plays like she did Sunday, she said that should be enough to earn the title today.
However, her fellow competitors won’t be conceding victory to her just yet as Emily Wright of Mason, Ohio, Dayana Marquez of Atlanta, and Katie Rose Higgins of Charleston, S.C., lie five shots back of Welch in a tie for second.
Anne Marie Covar of Edgefield, S.C., lags just one shot back of the second-place trio in fifth at 6-over-par 77.