The relatively short course, with tight fairways and doglegs darting right and left, demanded accurate play off the tee. Shafer and his father, Bart, who walked the course during his son's practice round before an American Junior Golf Association event, knew he would have to knock his drives straight to set up 52- and 56-degree wedge approaches, the shots he had always commanded.
Execution of this plan worked out well: Shafer fired three consecutive under-par rounds to win his first AJGA event. A week later, he will try for another victory closer to home.
Shafer, a rising senior at Greenbrier High, will tee off this morning in the Charles Howell III Junior Championship, a three-day tournament at West Lake Country Club.
He leads a strong collection of area golfers trying to win the three-year-old event. No area golfer has ever won; recent Lakeside graduate Kelby Burton finished second a year ago and Greenbrier senior Austin Vick is enjoying a strong summer that saw him finish third in the Georgia Junior Championship and qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Seventeen area golfers entered in the boys field, which has 102 entries. The girls tournament is 29 players strong.
Shafer's win bumped him to No. 70 in the AJGA's international rankings -- he is the highest-ranked area player, 12 slots above Burton -- and he should climb into the top 30 by the fall, when the class of 2010 players are wiped away. The win was his first in seven AJGA events.
The AJGA, a nonprofit based near Atlanta that counts members all over the world, puts on high-level tournaments to help junior golfers improve their game in hopes of earning college scholarships. Shafer does not need further attention from college coaches -- he has committed to play at Auburn -- but he wants to play three more AJGA tournaments this year, starting today.
"(Auburn coaches) want him to play against some stiffer competition, but he will get that kind of competition at West Lake," Bart Shafer said. "(College) coaches have said if you can play with the talent in Augusta, you can play with anyone out there."
Shafer entered the Rome tournament, called the Burgett H. Mooney Jr. Classic, seeking to cure a swing ailment. Poor mechanics, he said, had forced him to hook many shots. A session with Augusta Country Club pro Tommy Brannen, who has worked with Shafer for about two years, led to an improved swing, Shafer said.
He opened with 67 and topped the field after the end of all three rounds.
Shafer tied for 14th last year and has a better understanding of what to expect this year.
"I think you're going to see a lot of Augusta names at the top," he said.