Guest confident after his change

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Augusta State's Keith Guest is making his comeback in fine fashion.

In the second event of his senior season, Guest fired 1-under-par 71 on Friday in the first round of the Administaff ASU Invitational at Champions Retreat Golf Club.

Guest, along with USC Aiken's Jeff Goff (71), is tied for ninth place, three shots behind a trio of leaders at three under par.

In the team competition, UCLA carded 4-under-par 284 to take a two-shot lead over North Carolina. Augusta State (299) is in a tie for 14th place.

With thunderstorms expected today, the second round will begin at 8:30 a.m., with teams going off both sides.

Guest, a starter the past three seasons, weathered his own storm after he underwent a swing change following last year's regionals. He decided to sacrifice distance for control and employ a fade.

"I'm able to trust I can pound it down the left side of the fairway and not worry about it going left," Guest said. "That's been key for me, because if I can put it in the fairway, I'm a pretty good chipper and putter."

It took him almost a year to return to the starting lineup.

Guest's game finally clicked a few weeks back when he shot 66 in a team qualifier at Champions Retreat. He then tied for 10th place at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate.

For Guest, the highlight of Friday's round came on the par-3 13th, where he nestled a 5-iron to within a foot for birdie.

Guest and freshman Henrik Norlander (74) helped the Jaguars overcome a rough start. Augusta State finished the front nine (Palmer Nine) at 11 over par before shooting even par on the back nine (Player Nine).

"I'm proud of the guys for hanging in on the back nine," Augusta State coach Josh Gregory said.

"They played well on the last nine holes to keep us within shouting distance. There's two more days left. We'll see what happens."

USC Aiken, the lone Division II team in the field, shot 291 for seventh place. Goff, a senior, birdied the par-5 17th hole to move 1 under par, before adding a touch of drama at the last hole. His approach shot drifted right and flirted with the greenside pond, settling on the bank -- 18 inches from disaster. He got up and down for par.

For the Pacers, freshman Ashley Smith and sophomore Kevin Grady each shot 73, while freshman J.P. Solis carded 74. Junior Roberto Diaz, who leads the team with a 73.1 scoring average, posted a non-counting 82.

Diaz, who recorded three double bogeys along with a triple bogey at No. 18, suffered his second-worst round of the season.

"For the other guys to pick him up," USC Aiken acting coach Brooks Blackburn said, "unbelievable.

"He'll come back from it. I feel he'll have a great day tomorrow."

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.


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