HOOVER, Ala. (June 7, 2013) -- Taylor McCullum parlayed home course knowledge to be tied for the first round lead with Clay Guerin after they carded six-under-par 66′s in the 97th State Amateur Championship at Hoover Country Club.
McCullum is a recent graduate of Hoover High School, a Hoover Country Club member and UAB golf signee, while Guerin lives in Auburn and played for Central Alabama Community College. They lead by one over Alex Mahlik of Madison and Tuscaloosa’s Tyler Hitchner.
Three golfers are tied on four-under-par 68: Alabama signee Robby Shelton IV, current Alabama golfer Tom Lovelady and UAB’s Thomas Sutton, with reigning State Junior champion Forrest Gamble (Ole Miss), reigning State Match Play champion Michael Johnson (Auburn), Hunter Hawkins (UAB), Will Cannon (UAB), Wilson McDonald (UAB), Scottsboro’s Robson Copenhaver and David Zickler (Auburn) all on 69.McCullum’s 66 could have been lower, as he had three three-putt bogeys, not that he is complaining.
He caught fire on the back nine with birdies on Nos. 10, 13, 15 and 18, plus a tap in eagle on No. 11. With three birdies on the front nine on Nos. 1, 5 and 6 he totaled seven birdies against bogeys on Nos. 4, 8 and 12.
“Playing my home course was a little more pressure, but I think that’s offset by the fact that I know the course so well. Plus I know exactly where to hit it on every hole.”
He pointed to two key moments in his round. A 4-iron to six inches from the hole on No. 11 for a tap in eagle and a miraculous up and down on No. 17 after a poor tee shot left him in trouble.
Guerin left CACC to attend Auburn, where he did not play on the golf team. He got his degree last December and is soon to start working in Birmingham.
“With the overnight rain the course softened up a lot and was gettable. I’ve been playing great and was very focused for the round.”
He matched identical nines of 33, with birdies on holes 2, 7, 8, 11, 15 and 16 and no bogeys for a very clean scorecard.
Mahlik just finished his second and final year at Central Alabama Community College and will be a junior at Arkansas Tech this fall.
He was an integral part of the recent NJCAA Division 1 Championship winning team at CACC as his final round final hole birdie left them one ahead and national champions.
Thursday he said his iron play was particularly strong and led to birdies on Nos. 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13 and 16 against bogeys on Nos. 2 and 17.
Hitchner is only 17, but is already an established player. This home schooled senior-to-be reached the semifinals of this year’s State Four Ball with his even younger partner Jake DeZoort.
Hitchner had six birdies and one bogey, with a strong back nine (the front nine on the course) of 32 after birdies on Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 9. In fact he birdied all par fives (Nos. 11 and 18 too).
“I missed the ball in the right spots and putted very well. Putting was definitely the key. I would have taken even par (in his first State Amateur round), so I’m very, very happy with 67.”
Hitchner said he had verbally committed to play golf for Alabama starting in 2014.
The championship is four rounds of stroke play, with a cut made to the low 66 and ties after Friday’s second round.
View results for Alabama State Amateur Golf Championship