GRANITEVILLE — Theo Humphrey calmed his father down by making a par-saving putt on the 18th hole on Thursday.
The 8-footer gave the Greenwich, Conn., golfer 3-under-par 69 and a one-shot lead after the first round of the 54-hole Junior Invitational at Sage Valley.
Brad Dalke, of Hobart, Okla., and Sam Horsfield, of Davenport, Fla., shot 70s.
Humphrey, 18, had blown his 30-foot birdie putt past the hole on No. 18. As the ball was tracking, he heard a man’s remark from the gallery, which Humphrey verbally answered on his way to marking his ball.
After the round, Humphrey identified the man it in the gallery.
“That was my dad,” he said. “He was like, ‘Oh, he killed it.”
The par save helped Humphrey finish his round on a positive note. He had been 5-under for the round through 15 holes, but had bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17. He didn’t want to add No. 18 to that list.
“If I had bogeyed the last three, that wouldn’t have been good after playing so well for 15 holes,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey nearly fell victim to the difficult two final holes at Sage Valley, as Andy Zhang, Robin Dawson and Cameron Champ had before him. All three were 3-under after 16 holes. Zhang then went bogey, double bogey for 72, Dawson went double bogey, bogey also for 72, and Champ went bogey, bogey for 71.
“Par is a good score on 17 and 18,” Humphrey said.
Only seven of the 54 players broke par at the 7,437-yard Sage Valley course.
“It played tough out there,” Humphrey said. “Even though it wasn’t super windy, the wind was really swirling so you never knew where it was going.”
Humphrey and Horsfield have won regional junior events, but nothing of the caliber of the Junior Invitational. They both let opportunities slip in big events and believe they’ve learned form that.
Humphrey shared the third-round lead in last year’s Rolex Tournament of Champions, but shot a final-round 72 and tied for fourth.
“I had the lead on the back nine but had a bad last few holes,” Humphrey said. “Kind of being in contention has helped me know how to be able to handle it. I’ve been there, I’ve had a good chance, but I haven’t gotten it done. I’d really love to do that this week.”
Horsfield led this tournament by two shots after 36 holes last year, opening with 68-71. He closed with 75 to finish tied for second place, two shots behind winner Carson Young.
“Last year I would have liked to win but I definitely took it as a learning experience,” Horsfield said. “That made me the player I am today. Being able to deal with certain things, like not winning when you wanted to.”
About all Horsfield remembers about the final round is that he didn’t take advantage of the par-5s as he had in the first two rounds.
“I don’t really remember much of the round. I try not to remember that round,” he said “I didn’t play bad, actually. I just didn’t play as good as the first two days.”
Counting last year, Horsfield is 4-under for four rounds at Sage Valley.
“The course really fits me off the tee,” Horsfield said. “I like the way a lot of holes are shaped for right-to-left shots. I feel like this course is a ball-strikers course. If you hit it good with your irons, you can score good around here.”