AIKEN - Chip Cochran's confidence in his golf game was at an all-time low when he signed up for the Aiken Golf Classic a couple of weeks ago.
After a first-round leading 3-under-par 68 on Friday at the Palmetto Golf Club, Cochran was enjoying the game again.
The Waynesboro resident leads ...in what is the eighth of nine Cadillac Cup events this season.
Cochran's interest in golf was in great decline after a dismal showing in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier at the Atlanta Athletic Club on Aug. 4.
"It just beat me up," Cochran said. "It took away my desire for wanting to play golf."
Before Friday's four-birdie, one-bogey trip at Palmetto, Cochran had not played a round of golf since his Black Monday experience in Atlanta.
"I hit a few balls a couple of times and changed a lot of things in my swing," Cochran said.
While Cochran was returning to form, two of the pre-tournament favorites struggled. Defending champion Joe Hendrick of Chesterfield, S.C., shot a 75 and Aiken's Brennen King, who broke the long-standing Palmetto course record on Monday, had a 77.
King, who will be a reshirt freshman at Clemson this fall, shot a 61 last Monday at Palmetto, breaking Frank Lock's 29-year-old course record by a shot.
"I was thinking about the 61 all day," King said after his round Friday. "It was a big turnaround. The course is really good right now, but I had a hard time getting up-and-down. The only difference between the course today and on Monday when I set the record was the greens were cut lower and rolled for the tournament."
As for Hendrick, he was five over par through eight holes, then played one under par golf the rest of the way in.
"The course is in perfect shape," Hendrick said. "There is no excuse for playing bad, not as good as the course is. I haven't been practicing much this summer. Why? Because of lack of dedication. It's nobody's fault by my own."
Cochran, 35, is a fan of the ]as]Golf Channel, which is available to cable subscribers in the Waynesboro area. He's so much a fan, in fact, that he started putting into practice some of the instructional tips he's seen on the shows. That's one reason the former Georgia Tech golfer feels he hasn't played up to his standards in two years.
"I've been watching too much TV," Cochran said. "On Thursday, when I hit balls, I went back to doing the things I used to do and everything felt good. I went back to playing by feel."
Using his old swing, Cochran missed just three greens in regulation Friday and just two fairways. One of the fairways he missed was on the short par-4 18th hole. It led to his lone bogey of the day.
Cochran's tee shot on the 18th hole was in the left rough.
"I could have played a big sweeping hook, but who knows where it would have gone," Cochran said. "I played it smart and chipped out to about 60 yards form the green. Because I hadn't shot well in so long, I was trying to hold on to what I had."
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