Trio tied atop Kia leaderboard

  • Follow David Westin

It didn't matter what set of tees they played in Saturday's first round of the inaugural Kia of Augusta Regions Cup Invitational. Gordon Lakes Golf Course wasn't giving up anything lower than 3-under-par 69.

Four players shot that score, three in the regular division, which played from the 6,700-yard tees. Steve Dye also had 69 to lead the seniors, which played a 6,400-yard course.

Dye has a two-shot lead over Glen Hurt and Jim Swanson, who had the shot of the day. The 69-year-old Swanson aced the par-3 sixth, the famous island hole.

"He was in front of us and they were raising their hands, but I didn't really know (about the ace)," Dye said. "Did he win a car?"

The answer was no. Kia of Augusta is the tournament sponsor, but it didn't offer prizes for a hole-in-one.

It was the third ace on that hole for Swanson, who hit a 7-iron from 167 yards Saturday.

"There is no secret; just commit to your shot and hit it," Swanson said about his success on No. 6. "I don't see the water. I'm more nervous standing on that first tee down there."

A strong field turned out for the first Regions Cup event at Gordon Lakes in more than a decade, and the stars - both old and new - rose to the top.

Jay Blackburn and Jamie Felder, the Regions Cup players of the year in 2005 and 2006, respectively, had 69s, as did newcomer Josh Gregory. Jack Shick, another first-year player, had 71 and will join Blackburn, Felder and Gregory in today's final group.

This is the first year Gregory, the Augusta State men's golf coach, has played any Regions Cup events. In four starts, he has a victory a fourth-place finish and ties for third and 10th.

Gregory, who benefitted from two hole-outs Saturday, admitted he was fortunate to shoot 69.

On the par-5 12th hole, he flew a shot into the hole for eagle from 50 yards out.

"It was a slam dunk; it didn't touch the flag. That was fun," he said.

Two holes earlier, Gregory holed out a 30-yard chip shot for birdie after missing the par-4 green badly with his approach shot.

While Felder had five birdies and two bogeys, it was Blackburn who had the most consistent round of the leaders. The Harlem golfer had three birdies and 15 pars. After making birdies on his third, fourth and sixth holes, Blackburn parred his final 12 holes and then rushed off to attend a wedding.

Today could be historic for Blackburn. With a victory, he'll tie Mitch Marchman and Michael Carlisle for first place on the Regions Cup career victory list with nine titles. Felder has four career titles - three of them coming last year - but his best finish this year is a tie for third (twice).

This season, Felder put so much pressure on himself to play well in the Georgia Amateur, which was held earlier this month, that it carried over to his Regions Cup play. After shooting 77-83 and missing the cut at the Amateur on July 13, Felder took a break.

He didn't play another round of golf until Friday's practice round at Gordon Lakes.

"I took two weeks off and said, 'OK, I need a break to get away from everything,'" he said. "I had been trying to bump the level (of play) up instead of just playing golf. My wife and I went down to Hilton Head and took it easy and let my mind relax. It freed me up."

While the three regular division leaders have all won tournaments, Dye will be seeking his first title. His best finish was a tie for 10th place.

"I'm hitting it straight," said Dye, who credited Jones Creek Teaching Center instructor Cara Andreoli with helping him correct the rope hook that crept into his game.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.


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