AIKEN - Josh Jackson couldn't wait to have a few words with Kurt Kaltz after taking the first-round lead in the 75th South Carolina Golf Association Men's Amateur Championship on Thursday.
Jackson, an Edgefield resident, opened with 6-under-par 64 at Palmetto Golf Club. That means the 19-year-old easily should make today's cut, something Kaltz wasn't so sure would happen.
Kaltz is the head pro at Pine Ridge Country Club in Edgefield, where Jackson is a member.
Pine Ridge is holding a Regions Cup tournament, the Perry Watson Memorial, on Saturday and Sunday. Since Kaltz knew Jackson was playing in the Amateur Championship, he told him if he missed the cut, he could still play the Perry Watson the following day.
"He told me he was going to pencil me in in case I didn't play well," Jackson said. "I told him, 'Thanks for your confidence.' I appreciated that."
In Kaltz's defense, Jackson hadn't been scoring well lately because he has been changing his ball flight from a draw to a fade.
"I've been hitting it real well; I've been kind of waiting on it," Jackson said. "I knew I was going to play good sooner or later; I just didn't know when."
Jackson picked the right time for what he called the "major overhaul" in his swing to kick in. Jackson had birdies on Nos. 1, 7, 10, 14, 17 and 18 at Palmetto, which was set up fairly easy.
The biggest problem for the field was the 3-inch deep rough. It didn't bother Jackson, who missed only "two or three" fairways and just one green in regulation.
Jackson, who is a sophomore on the Coastal Carolina golf team, had no idea the 64 was coming. At least not after his practice session on the Palmetto driving range.
"I got out of the car, went down to the range and hit 10 or 12 balls and walked back up and sat on the porch, trying to beat the heat," Jackson said.
Jackson has a one-shot lead over Columbia's Matthew Bryant and is two shots up on Whitfield Massey of Mount Pleasant and Clarks Hill's Justin Thompson.
Thompson, an 18-year-old freshman on the USC Aiken golf team, had five birdies, including a spectacular one to end his round.
After his approach shot to No. 18 found the left greenside bunker, Thompson holed the 10-yard shot.
"I thought I'd hit such a good (approach shot)," said Thompson, who didn't realize his ball was in the bunker until he reached the green. "I kind of thought I deserved to make the bunker shot."
"I had a feeling he was going to make it; he had a look in his eyes," said Justin's father and caddie, Robert Thompson.
Justin's older brother, Casey, also had a good day. He shot 70, as did Aiken's Patrick Cunning and Jackson's Jeffrey Goff. Aiken residents Michael Carlisle and Chad Meldrum followed with 73s.
It was not such a pleasant beginning for former champions Dillard Pruitt of Greenville (78) and Clemson golf coach Larry Penley of Central (77). The field will be trimmed to the low 70 and ties after today's round.
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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