GRANITEVILLE, S.C. – Looking for someone to make a move up the leaderboard Friday at the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley?
Of the 54 players teeing it up this week, few feel as comfortable around the pristine-yet-intimidating Sage Valley Golf Club as Davis Shore. The 18-year-old Alabama signee from Knoxville, Tenn., is making his third start in the prestigious junior event after finishing second in 2015 and fourth last year.
“It’s a tough course and if you can hang in there on the hard holes, you can do well,” Shore said. “I tend to be pretty good at bouncing back from bad holes and that’s key out here. … It’s really hard to come out here and go bogey-free.”
In fact, Shore made a double bogey and three bogeys during Thursday’s opening round. But he practiced what he preaches, keeping calm, staying focused and also carding six birdies, including three on holes directly following holes he bogeyed.
He doubled the difficult par-3 second hole after hitting his tee ball into a bush left and having to take an unplayable. He also bogeyed two other par 3s, Nos. 7 and 12, and went a combined 4 over on Sage Valley’s foursome of par 3s.
But there were more bright spots, including an impressive closing birdie, as Shore hit his approach to about 6 feet and made the putt for a first-round, 1-under 71. He’s four shots off the lead shared by Joaquin Niemann and Cameron John.
“I bounced back well today which was key because I hit some pretty poor shots,” said Shore, whose opening 71 bested his previous two opening rounds at Sage Valley (74 and 72). “…But this is the best I’ve ever played in the first round, so I have that going for me.”
Shore had to shake off some competitive rust early in his round. He hadn’t played a tournament since the Jones Cup in early February, and he put the clubs away for about three weeks last month and took some trips.
First, he went to New York City for his high-school senior trip. It was the first time Shore has visited the Big Apple. He walked through Central Park, rode bikes around the city, went to the top of the Empire State Building, saw the 9/11 Memorial, ate some great food and much more.
Then he headed to Florida with some friends for another getaway, this one of the beach variety, at Anna Maria Island, south of Tampa.
“It was refreshing,” said Shore, who will have a busy summer schedule of golf before heading to Tuscaloosa in the fall.
Speaking of refreshing. After his round, Shore returned to his cabin and “refreshed” his golf bag, switching out his irons. One of his 11 cabin-mates for the week asked, “You shot 71 and you’re changing out your irons?” The answer: Shore wasn’t happy with his iron play.
“If I just hit it in the middle of the greens and make par on the par 3s, I shoot 5 under,” Shore said. “It was a good round, just bad iron shots consistently throughout the round. I hit some poor ones. You have to be pinpoint with the irons out here or it will kick off into some place you don’t want to be.”
One place Shore does want to be: wearing the gold jacket come Saturday.