Darton’s Taylor Martin was one of just three golfers to shoot under par in Monday’s opening round of the Doublegate Invitational.
ALBANY — You could almost feel the exhale from Darton coach Bill Jones III and his Cavalier golfers.
“We are in the hunt,” Jones said, “and that’s all we really wanted (Monday).”
The Cavs shot a 292 — their first score under 300 in an opening round this spring — in the first round of the Doublegate Collegiate Invitational on Monday and are in second place and just six shots back of Wallace State heading into today’s final 18 holes.
Darton freshman Taylor Martin led the way with a 1-under 71 and was one of only three players in the nine-team tournament to finish under par.
The opening-round score was a welcome change for the Cavs, who haven’t won a tournament in 11 months and have had one frustrating start after another during their slump.
“Six strokes is nothing, even for nine holes,” Jones said. “It’s a problem when you get 10, 12, 14 shots back. When you get that far back, you know you have to push and they know you have to push, and you usually go the other direction. The fact that we can see them and that we will be playing with them (today) should bode well for us if we put the same round together (today).”
Parks Brown shot an even-par 72, Nick Green fired a 73 and Robert Robertson and TaeHyung Kim each carded 76s — but it was Martin who stole the show.
The freshman from Braselton finished with four birdies and overcame a potentially disastrous four-putt on No. 8.
“The four-putt was early in his round, and the best thing he did was come back from it,” Jones said. “He finished strong and birdied his last hole to shoot 1-under, and he never let it get to him.”
Martin said he didn’t think he had ever four-putted during a competitive round.
“You just have to get your focus back and hit a good drive on the next hole,” Martin said. “You think about it until the next tee box, and then you forget about it.”
Jones said putting was all that stood in between his team and the first-round lead in the first collegiate tournament ever held at Doublegate.
“We hit the ball as good as I have ever seen as an entire team, but we didn’t putt very well,” Jones said. “They had the greens running a little faster, and this is really the best I have seen these greens at this time of the year.”
“If we would have putted the way I thought we could have putted and usually do, then we probably would have shot even better than (286). But the fact remains that we aren’t 15 shots back. Our biggest problem has been starting this year.”
The Cavs, who are ranked No. 7 in the nation, have a four-shot lead on Tri County and a 10-shot lead on Central Alabama, which is No. 2 in the country and undefeated against Darton this season.
Other team scores were ABAC (305), USC Beaufort (308), USC Lancaster (315), Gordon College (320) and Andrew College (334).
Darton’s “B” team shot a 322 and was led by Madison Turner, who fired a 1-over 73. Also for Darton, Neil Graham and Moultrie native Von Stripling shot 81s, and Will Fuller finished with an 87.