Garretson, a rising sophomore at South Alabama, birdied his first hole — the par-5 No. 1 — and made the turn at 2 under before nabbing another birdie at the par-4 13th. He concluded his round with a bogey on 18 and entered the clubhouse one shot behind the leaders at 2-under 70.
“The course was tough from tee to green,” Garretson said. “You have to hit the ball well there. I drove the ball pretty iffy (Thursday), but I putted well to stay in it. I was making pars, but they weren’t pretty. It was a day of good putting, but not good driving.”
Garretson, who is tied for fourth with five others, trails co-leaders Scott Weeks, Robert Sheats and Lee Knox, who are all atop the leaderboard at 69 on the 7,104-yard, par-72 course. In order to maintain his standing in the top five, Garretson knows he will have to improve his tee shots and continue to play well on the greens.
“I didn’t practice driving the ball after my round,” he said, “so, hopefully, I can figure out that part of my game (today) and continue hitting everything else well, like my approach shots and my putts.”
Garrett, a rising senior at Georgia College and State University, is two strokes back at 71t. He was 1 under after his first nine holes on the back nine but he dropped to even after a bogey at the par-4 No. 2. Back-to-back birdies at Nos. 4 and 5 moved him back to under par for his round, which is where he stayed despite a bogey at the par-4 No. 8.
“I’m excited about my round,” said Garrett, who finished tied for 17th at last year’s Georgia Amateur. “I got off to a pretty good start. I hit it decently and putted really well (Thursday), so, hopefully, I can keep it going.
“I just have to stay patient, take the birdies where you can get them out here and try to avoid some big numbers. I think that will keep me in the hunt.”
Mark Strickland, a longtime member of Kennesaw’s Pinetree Country Club, also had a 71 and kept himself in the hunt for the lead despite two bogeys on the front nine. He negated them with two birdies to make the turn at even-par and played steady until a birdie at the par-3 17th left him 1 under for the round.
“I hit it really good (Thursday),” said Strickland, the runner-up to current PGA pro Harris English when the Georgia Amateur was last at Settindown Creek. “I’ve played this golf course a lot over the years and I’m really comfortable with it. It’s super hard and it kind of wears you down. Hopefully, I can continue driving it in the fairway because that’s the key. If you can drive it in the fairway, you’ll have a chance. If you don’t, it’s going to be a long weekend.
“The rough is incredible, especially around the greens. It’s so thick and (as amateurs) we don’t usually play in rough like this, so it’s tough. It’s important to hit the greens because, if you do, you can make some putts.”
The top golfers will have to continue to play well today in order to keep on playing over the weekend. The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after today’s round.
Marietta’s Tom Price Jr. and Kennesaw’s Chris Hall are tied for 16th at 72.
Hall nearly held the clubhouse lead after making the turn at 4-under and birdieing six of his first 11 holes. But a quadruple-bogey 8 at the par-4 17th erased the progress he had made.
Recent Walton graduate David Yowell (73) is tied for 27th along with Marietta residents Matthew Hayes and Jeff Belk. Kennesaw’s Christian Raynor (74) is tied for 40th, with Marietta’s John Guzman (75) tied for 54th and Marietta’s Tommy Caswell Jr. (76) tied for 65th.
Three Kennesaw State players are in the field as well, but only Jimmy Beck is below the projected cut line with a first-round 74. Jonathan Klotz shot 77, with Austin Vick at 78.
Eight other county golfers — Smyrna’s Kevin Jordan, Acworth’s Rex Ross, Patrick Kenney and Jerry Witt, Marietta’s Scott Davenport, Adam Wright and Jason Terranova and Powder Springs’ Brandon Alsobrook — are all 75th or worse and need to gain ground to make today’s cut.