The first round of last year’s Dogwood Invitational was very un-Dogwood like, with bogeys outnumbering birdies.
Tournament chairman Edward Toledano made things a bit easier this year by playing the tees forward to 6,643 yards and putting the flags in easier locations. He didn’t count on morning rains stripping away what was left of the defenses.
Led by Ben Griffin’s tournament-record 11-under 61, the field tore apart the venerable Druid Hills course. Griffin, who will be a senior at East Chapel Hill (N.C.) High, was one of 49 golfers in the 90-man field to break par. He broke the record previously set by Carl Pettersson, who is on the PGA Tour. It also was Griffin’s lowest score in a tournament.
“It’s pretty low. I didn’t really know what to think out there,” said Griffin, whose only experience at Druid Hills came in Tuesday’s practice round. “I just kept on plugging along, trying to make as many as I could.”
Wednesday’s average score was 71.33, with 139 more birdies than bogeys. Last year’s opening-round average score, was 74.71 with 58 more bogeys than birdies.
“Last year we tried to put a little bit of a surprise on the players because they’ve always come down thinking birdie-fest, and we made a little bit too strong of a statement,” Toledano said.
Local players joining Griffin near the top of the leaderboard are Georgia Tech’s Oliver Schniederjans (9 under), Georgia State’s Davin White (8 under) and Oglethorpe’s Anthony Maccaglia (7 under). Eleven players shot at least 6 under.
“The scores are extremely low, lower than I thought,” Schniederjans said. “It’s not playing hard.”
The morning rains, which made the greens softer, are one reason why.
Griffin said he needed 25 putts and played the four par 5s in 5 under. He didn’t miss a green in regulation.
“The putter was very hot today,” Griffin said.
Schniederjans estimated he needed 27 putts and played the par 5s in 4 under.
“The greens are super slow, you can just roll them in all day,” Schniederjans said.
Though the course drained well, the fairways were still receptive. Thomas Sutton, who plays at UAB, said he hit 13 of 14 fairways. He took advantage to hit 17 of 18 greens and post 7 under.
White, who will be a junior at Georgia State next season, also took advantage to find most of the fairways.
“Keeping it in the fairway is the first goal, and there were some pretty gettable flags out there today,” he said.
Thursday’s second round will start at 8 a.m. Griffin will tee off No. 1 at 8:27 a.m. Schniederjans will tee off No. 1 at 8:36 a.m. The 54-man cut won’t be made until after Friday’s third round.
Schniederjans predicted before the tournament that the winning score would fall between 22 and 25 under par. Ben Kohles won last year’s Dogwood at 17 under.
Toledano didn’t seem ready to concede that possibility. The tees can be moved back. The rough can still grow.
“This year we gave them an opportunity to ease into the golf course,” he said. “Things will get progressively more interesting.”
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