Two-time champion David Noll Jr. of Dalton led the 144-man field after carding 4-under 67 on the par-71, 7,108-yard course. Cleveland’s David Watts and Zachary Healy of Peachtree Corners were tied for second at 69, while four others, including Kennesaw State’s Sam Curtis, shot 70.
“We had some rain early in the morning, but everybody was able to play through it and we kept going,” Pinetree general manager Jim Corrigan said. “It started to clear up and we ended up with a pretty good day of golf. We’re hopeful this can continue.”
Noll, who won titles in 2011 and 2003 and is a three-time runner-up, started his round off the first tee in the afternoon and quickly got off to a good start. He birdied the first hole before a bogey on No. 6 pushed him back to even.
But under-par scores over three of his next four holes, including an eagle at the par-5 ninth, moved him to 4-under with seven holes left to play. A bogey at 14 set Noll back a shot, but he recovered with a birdie at the par-3 17th to finish strong with the clubhouse lead.
“Like everyone in the field, you try to prepare as best you can, and it turned out to be a nice day for me,” Noll said. “A little bit of everything went well. I drove the ball and putted well. I wouldn’t say it was a stress-free day, but most of it went right.
“The shots (Thursday) and (today) are all about jockeying for position to get ready for the weekend. It’s a nice start, but I’m still going to be aggressive and cautious (today) when I need to.”
Four players were tied for ninth after shooting even-par 71s. That included Kelby Burton, one of the five Kennesaw State golfers playing in the tournament adjacent to the university’s campus.
Pinetree member Mark Strickland was among 12 tied at 72.
Strickland also began his round in the afternoon and avoided the early-morning rain. He was up-and-down throughout the day with bogeys at 7 and 13 canceled out by birdies at 9 and 11.
A bogey at the par-4 18th wasn’t how he wanted to leave his round.
“I three-putted 18 from 15 feet away and that kind of hurt,” Strickland said. “I really didn’t drive the ball well and I didn’t put myself in position to make birdies.
“I did get a lot out of the round considering how poorly I hit it. The goal all along was to keep myself in it after the first round and not take myself out of it. There are three days left and it’s a marathon. I’ll have to hit better (today) and give myself some chances.”
Defending champion Lee Knox of Augusta, who also won in 2010, struggled during his opening round and finished tied for 61st at 76. His father, Jeff, was in the group that shot 70.
The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after today’s round.