ELIZABETHTON — Whit Brown figures he’s played Elizabethton Golf Course “a couple hundred times.” He put that experience to good use on Friday.
Brown made eight birdies en route to a five-under-par 67 that gave him the first-round lead in the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur.
“That’s a huge advantage,” Brown said of his familiarity with Elizabethton, the home course of his Milligan College team. “I’ve played here a couple hundred times.”
Church Hill’s Carlson Cox shot 69 and was the only other player to break 70.
On a day when scoring was a bit higher than usual at the ET Amateur, 11 players in the 72 player field broke par.
Defending champion Nick York shot 70, the same score with which he opened last year. Joe Meade was also at 70.
Former champion Brad Robinson led a large group at 71 that included Bobby Treadway, Johnny Page, Chris Wynne, Brandon Worley, Josh Cornett and David Talley.
Most of Brown’s good work came on the greens. He started the day by making a 25-footer for birdie on the first hole and continued to hole putts of various lengths all day.
“That’s the only thing that saved me,” said Brown, a Murfreesboro native who will be a junior at Milligan in the fall. “I didn’t do anything great, didn’t really hit it that well. But when I got on the green, I made it.”
Brown was one under par through 12 holes when he really got going. A 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 13 set the stage for a spectacular finish. He played the final six holes in four under par to move to the top of the leaderboard.
“I didn’t hit it too great in the practice round, but I’ve been playing well all summer, so it’s nice to get a tournament round under par,” Brown said. “I’d love to do the same thing tomorrow. If I can hit a few more fairways, who knows? I only had a few chances today and I made them. I’d like to give myself a few more chances.”
Cox, the reigning Tri-Cities amateur player of the year, was just happy to still be in contention after the first round.
“I shot myself out of the tournament the first round the last couple of years,” said Cox, who will head to the Southern Am next week. “I feel like all I need is one day to go pretty low.”
Cox got into the 60s with his final putt of the day, and it was a pretty memorable one. He made a 35-footer from off the green for a birdie on the 18th hole.
“That was a good one,” Cox said. “I didn’t hit a lot of greens. I made a lot of up-and-downs for pars.”
The top 30 and ties after today’s second round will make the cut and advance to Sunday’s final round.
Defending senior champion Mike Poe shot 73 to grab the lead in the 50-54 division. That was one shot better than Dwight Scott and two better than Mike Fuller, Jimmy Whittenburg and Bryan Rodgers.
Mark Runyan also shot 73 to lead the 55-over division. Tim Dinwiddie and Pat Kenney were at 74.