GRANITEVILLE — Cody Proveaux found his game at the right time Friday.
After instituting a swing change in recent months, Proveaux watched everything come together in the first round of the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley. The 18-year-old Leesville, S.C., resident birdied four of the final five holes to open with 6-under-par 66.
After failing to break par in his previous four events, Proveaux birdied each of the four par-5 holes en route to a two-shot lead over Austin Langdale, Zachary Olsen, Jonathan Sanders and Emil Sogaard.
Wyndham Clark and Douglas Ghim are tied for sixth place at 69.
Recently, Proveaux decided to change his swing from a big sweeping draw to a straighter swing path. He made the move to help his game in the future.
“I just decided to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said, “and it’s paying off.”
Eighteen-year-old Matt NeSmith, of North Augusta, three-putted the first green for bogey and never got on track en route to 73. NeSmith is tied for 17th place.
“I really didn’t have my best stuff,” he said. “It’s OK, because we have two more days.
“I’m seven back. It’s hard, but it’s not that difficult to take it deep. That’s what you’ve got to do out here. I did it last year. I know I can do it. All I need is a couple of good rounds.”
Greyson Sigg, of Augusta, is tied for 32nd place after opening with 76. At 4-over through eight holes, the 17-year-old Sigg held steady the rest of the way, closing with 10 consecutive pars.
Unlike Sigg, Proveaux is one of 10 players with the advantage of having played this event last year. His experience paid off.
“Being able to see the course for four days last year definitely gives me an edge,” Proveaux said. “In the caliber of field like this, you’ve got to know everything about the course to win.”
Proveaux had a rough practice round Thursday and then got off to a bad start with a three-putt bogey to start the first round.
“I was like, wow, this is going to be great,” he deadpanned.
Proveaux fell to 2-under after missing the green at No. 13 and failing to get up and down for par. That would be his last mistake.
Proveaux fired his approach to 2 feet at No. 14 for a kick-in birdie. Then, he blasted out of the greenside bunker at the par-5 15th to set up birdie.
After making par at No. 16, Proveaux hit a draw around the trees to 5 feet for another birdie at No. 17. On the closing hole, he pushed his approach right of the pin, but his ball spun off the fringe to 4 feet to set up another birdie.
“This gives me a lot of boost going into the next two days,” Proveaux said. “This is a big tournament, and to hit it like I did gives me a big boost of confidence.”
“It’s good to see him playing well again,” NeSmith said. “He’s been struggling the past few months. It’s nice to see that name on the leaderboard.”