RADFORD, Va. – Georgia Tech senior Kyle Scott shot a 4-under 68 to lift the Yellow Jackets into the first-round lead at the NCAA East Regional played Thursday at the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech.
Georgia Tech, the ACC champions and No. 1 seed in the regional, shot 1-over 289 on the 7,685-yard, par-72 layout that was played at roughly 7,400 yards. The Yellow Jackets take a six-stroke over second-place Duke heading into Friday’s second round. Kent State and Oklahoma were tied for third at 8-over 296 after the first round, with Coastal Carolina in fifth at 11-over 299.
“We’ve played good all year,” said Georgia Tech coach Bruce Heppler, the ACC coach of the year. “I think sometimes the first round is the hardest one to play. But we got off to a good start and played solid throughout the whole round.
“The golf course is a great golf course. It’s difficult and the scores indicate that. It’s a real test, and I think it’ll identify teams that are playing good and hurt teams that aren’t. So it’s nice to get off to a good start.”
Host Virginia Tech was in sixth place after the first round, shooting 12-over 300. The Hokies are one shot out of the coveted top five, as the top five teams from each regional site advance to the NCAA Championships at Karsten Creek in Stillwater, Okla., on May 31-June 5.
“We kept ourselves in the hunt,” Virginia Tech coach Jay Hardwick said. “I’d like to see us drive the ball a little better. We didn’t do a good job of driving it, but we were patient when we got in trouble. We accepted bogey and played for it, and if we made par, that was fine.
“All in all, not bad. We’ve got to get some punch on down the lineup … We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We’ve got to drive it better and take advantage of some birdie opportunities a little more.”
Senior Marshall Bailey paced the Hokies, shooting a 1-over 73. Bailey had two bogeys and one birdie and managed to par the final four holes – the brutal stretch of No. 15, 16, 17 and 18 – after the wind shifted late in the afternoon and starting blowing in the golfers’ faces.
“I played solid all day,” Bailey said. “I didn’t have any big numbers, mostly pars. I was hitting a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. I gave myself a shot to be right there. The course was playing extremely tough. We’ve been playing it the past couple of weeks, and today, for some reason, I don’t know if it was the tournament or what, but it seemed to be a few shots harder.”
Bailey’s teammates, Garland Green and Bryce Chalkley, each shot 3-over, while Mikey Moyers shot 5-over.
But the story of the day was the play of Scott, a lanky South African who finished second at the ACC Championships behind teammate Paul Haley. He went out in 2-under and shot 2-under on the way in for a 68 that was one shot off the course record. He got it to 5-under after a birdie on the 243-yard, par-3 No. 17, but a bogey on No. 18 cost him the course record.
“It was a good round today,” Scott said. “I didn’t hit it well to start off with. The first six holes, I scrambled pretty good. But after that, I hit it really good. I didn’t miss a shot until 18. I made bogey on 18, which is unfortunate.
“But I was happy with the way I played. I putted pretty good, and I drove it well. I played from the short grass most of the day. It’s nice to attack these greens from the fairway instead of the rough.”
“He’s been playing good for two months now,” Heppler said of Scott. “He’s the 15th-ranked guy in the country, so he’s had a good year. He drives the ball really straight, and he probably played from the short grass most of the day. If you don’t, you’re going to shoot over par.”
None of Georgia Tech’s top four players shot worse than 2-over. James White finished at 1-over, and J.T. Griffin and Richy Werenski finished at 2-over. Haley, the ACC champion, was at 4-over and his score thus didn’t count (only the top four scores out of five count toward the team total).
Scott is two shots clear of the field in the race for medalist honors. Oklahoma’s Abraham Ancer shot 2-under 70, while four players – UNC Wilmington’s Josh Brock and Payne McLeod, Campbell’s Vaita Guillaume and Duke’s Brinson Paolini – all came in at 1-under.
The regional continues Friday morning, with the first tee times slated for 8 a.m. Virginia Tech will tee off on hole No. 1 at 8:20 a.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech golf, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_MGolf).