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CARROLLTON—With only a three-putt bogey on his 17th hole to blemish his card, Paul McConnell of Garland posted a 7-under 64 and took a two-shot lead after the first round of the abbreviated 103rd Texas Amateur Championship on Friday afternoon at The Honors Club. The tournament was shortened to 54 holes after hailstorms Wednesday night forced a cancellation of play on Thursday and a change of venue.
Proving to be adaptable and wielding a hot putter, McConnell had eight birdies through his first 16 holes on a course none of the field planned on playing until late Thursday morning. That’s when the Texas Golf Association announced that the damage to the course at Lakewood Country Club necessitated a move.
“I like Lakewood and was looking forward to playing there,” McConnell, a senior-to-be at the University of Texas at Arlington, said. “But The Honors is a little more wide open and the greens were just perfect and rolled awesome today.”
After a par save at the long par-4 10th, his first hole, McConnell reeled off four birdies to make the turn at 4-under and continued his hot play with four more birdies his next seven holes. Having reached 8-under, McConnell then suffered the bogey and made par at the last to post the 64. It was the same score he shot to qualify for the state amateur almost a month ago at the Golf Club of Dallas.
Lurking two strokes back is Tom Moore of San Antonio, who had a 66 for the lowest score of the morning groups. A recent graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos, Moore had seven birdies against two bogeys for his 5-under round. He, too, credited a hot putter.
“My putter was treating me well today,” Moore said. “I made four putts over 20 feet and also had two tap-in birdies. I feel badly for the Lakewood members because they have a beautiful course.”
Another shot back at 4-under is a group of five players. Twenty-six golfers broke the par of 71 on the Honors Club course that is measuring just less than 7,000 yards for the competition. Most notable of that large group was the 69 shot by 15-year-old Brandon Smith of Frisco. He shot a 64 at the Honors Club in the qualifying for the tournament just two weeks ago.
Stories about the horrific hailstorm were part of the backdrop to the tournament. Chris Causey of The Woodlands, a recent graduate of the University of Texas, spoke for many when he described his Wednesday night experience.
“I was about three blocks from Lakewood when the hail started hitting my car,” Causey said. “I pulled over and got into the floorboard of my back seat. I was as scared as I can ever remember being.”
Causey was in a group at one-under 70 and expressed his concern for Lakewood and praised the Honors Club.
“I like Lakewood and was looking forward to playing it,” he said. “But this course is as tournament-ready as a course can be without preparing for the tournament.”
The second round begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday and the field will be cut to the low 54 and ties for the final round on Sunday.