Defending Champ Cannon tied with Matt Johnson at Alabama State Am
Will Cannon
Will Cannon
Defending champion Will Cannon is off to a fast start in the 99th State Amateur at Mountain Brook Club. The UAB junior and Hoover resident fired a six-under-par 65 and has company at the top of the leaderboard with Dothan's Matt Johnson also on the same number. They have a two-shot lead over the University of Alabama's Robby Prater, who shot a 67, with Patrick Martin, who will be a freshman at Vanderbilt this fall, a further shot back.

This Alabama Golf Association championship is much to Cannon's liking.

"I putted really, really well. I hit it well too," Cannon, who carded six birdies and 12 pars, said.

He said he made a 20-foot putt on No. 17 to save par, as well as a 15-footer for par on No. 4.

"I really wanted to keep a bogey off my card. I feel like Mountain Brook (Club) really suits my game as you need to keep it in play off the tee and have a good wedge game. Driving the ball and wedge shots are my strengths."

Cannon made birdies on Nos. 5, 7, 9, 10, 12 and 16.

"I'm really happy, but it's just the first round. I came in here with no additional expectations and wanted to stick with my game plan. I was able to do that."

Johnson, 35, lives in Dothan and played for Troy University from 1998-2003. It is not lost on him that the State Amateur is typically a younger man's game.

"I'm a working guy with two kids. I work 7-5, but I try to touch a club every day and I play in a lot of tournaments on the weekends."

He won the State Mid-Amateur in 2011 and also finished in the top three in 2010 and '13.

"This course suits me as you don't have to bomb it (off the tee). I keep the ball in front of me, think myself around the course and like to think I'm a pretty decent putter. I always want to be competitive and my goal was to get it under par. I'm six to the good."

He got off to a fast start with an eagle on No. 11 (his second hole) and a birdie on No. 12. His lone bogey came at 13, but he added biddies on Nos. 16, 1, 8 and 9.

University of Montevallo golfer Daniel Schroder, who, like Martin, plays golf at Riverchase Country Club, shot a two-under-par 69, as did University of Alabama rising senior, Tom Lovelady, a Mountain Brook resident.

Martin, the reigning State High School 7A High School individual champion, recently graduated from Spain Park High School. He shot 68-65--133 to win that title by seven at Magnolia Grove, so he's not intimidated by shooting a low score.

"I was really comfortable with my ball striking and I rolled a lot of solid putts. Four birdies, just one bogey, I'm happy with that."

Prater is the reigning Alabama Open champion and just concluded his sophomore year at the Capstone. He had seven birdies against three bogeys to be alone in third.

After Friday's round, the field will be cut to 66 players and ties.

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