For Barron Davis, it’s a short hop compared to the air miles he’s getting ready to put between himself and his native links.
Davis, who is less than 12 days away from deployment to Iraq, shot a 69 on Saturday to place himself in strong contention for the championship.
“I hit the ball well and, most importantly, I hit some putts,” said Davis, who hit seven birdies. “I just stayed in the 1-under, 2-under range throughout the round.”
The sky was mostly overcast and temperatures were downright autumnal — certainly fine weather for favorite sons. Former J.I. Burton standout Adam Mahan shot a 68 to lead the field headed into today’s final round.
Mahan, who finished fourth overall in the 2004 Group A state tournament at Lonesome Pine Country Club, turned in his best competitive round ever at his home course. When he chipped in on No. 15, he said, he knew it was going to be a great round.
Davis won the Lonesome Pine Invitational in 2005, but soldiering has kept him away from the area for a couple of years. He is unlikely to forget the unique terrain of his original home course.
“I could play it with my eyes closed. I know it that well,” said Davis, who shared a Group A state individual golf championship with Powell Valley teammate Chase Kress at LPCC in 2000.
Davis, a first lieutenant in an infantry Stryker Brigade, is due to be promoted to the rank of captain in a matter of weeks.
Lawrence Largent shot a 69, remaining in solid shape to defend his 2008 invitational title. Also shooting a 69 was Mike Poe, making his first tournament appearance since the East Tennessee Amateur.
“I didn't make many mistakes,” Poe said. “I hit it on a couple par 5s and had a couple of eagle putts so it was just a pretty solid round, all the way around.”
More solid golf will probably be required to win this one. After the first 18 holes, the championship flight held a double handful of serious contenders.
Bill Sergent III shot a 70, while David Cantrell turned in a 71. Brad Woods and Mike McCall each shot 72 while Payne Jones stroked a 73.
In the seniors, Ron McCall led his field with a 71.
“It was a pretty smooth round,” McCall said. “I’ve won here before and I have a chance to win again.”
Bob Ross and J.R. Speaks also have a chance, both having shot 73 on Saturday. George McQueen, who recently won the East Tennessee Senior Amateur 55-over championship, shot a 75.
“I came in 1 under on the front and I felt really good about my shots until I hit No. 13. Then I hit the worst shot I’ve ever hit,” McQueen said. “I almost took it down into the woods and it cost me a triple bogey.”
McQueen, who lives in Limestone, Tenn., and plays out of Elizabethton, said the unique challenges posed by the LPCC course layout is only one of the reasons he enjoys playing the Invitational.
“The place just suits your eye a little bit. They’ve got a couple holes everybody calls quirky,” McQueen said. “There’s a mystique about it. It’s a short course, but it makes you think about it.”
Bobby Fox shot an opening-round 74 to lead the super seniors. He felt he should’ve trimmed a few strokes off that.
“I missed several 4-foot birdie shots. Four of them, actually,” Fox said. “I had my chances. I just didn’t do it.”