KINGSPORT — Defending champion Knoxville Farragut nearly lapped the field Sunday in the opening round of the ninth annual McDonald’s Tournament of Champions at Ridgefields Country Club.
Led by Davis Bunn’s 5-under-par 67 and Hayden Anderson’s 1-under 71, the Admirals posted a team total of 1-over 289.
Second-place Jefferson County was a whopping 14 strokes back after a 303, followed by Illinois’ Hinsdale Central (304). Chattanooga’s Baylor School and St. Viator of Arlington Heights, Ill., were tied for fourth at 305.
Individual leader Bunn was up by two shots over Baylor’s Keith Mitchell. Anderson and Chris Meyer of Hinsdale were tied for third after matching 71s.
As daunting as Farragut’s lead is going into today’s final round, it could have been even bigger. Two of the Admirals had sub-par rounds going but stumbled on the back nines.
“I really expected us to have a little better team score,’’ said Farragut coach Scott McKenzie, whose team is also the defending TSSAA Class AAA state champs. “We had four guys under par early in the day. They just couldn’t finish.’’
Bunn got his round going early.
“I chipped in for birdie on the third hole and that seemed to jump-start my round,’’ said Bunn, who will attend the University of Chattanooga next fall. “On the par-5 sixth I hit the green on my second shot from 251 yards and had a tap-in eagle. That’s the kind of day I was having.’’
Bunn, who hit every fairway during his round, also eagled the par-5 11th and finished the day with two eagles, three birdies and two bogeys.
“The rough was tough,’’ he noted. “The couple of greens I did miss put me in some trouble. But all you can do is try to make the best score you can.’’
The Admirals’ Anderson will attend Georgia Southern while Brandon Rogers, who posted a 75, will head for the University of Tennessee.
“Farragut is a very solid team,’’ said tournament director David Gardner. “When you have three prime-time Division I players, you pretty much know what to expect.’’
McKenzie doesn’t expect a letdown from his squad despite the big lead.
“These guys have been in this situation before,’’ he explained. “In fact, three of them were here last year when we won. They all know what to do tomorrow.’’
Today’s final round begins at 8:15 a.m. from both the first and 10th tees. The leaders tee off at 9:48.