By MICHAEL BURWELL
Playing from the rough and amongst the trees at Findlay Country Club often leads to trouble.
Spencer Shoemaker found his way out of trouble multiple times during Wednesday’s first round of the Ohio Amateur Championship and turned it into one of the top rounds of the day.
Despite hitting just four of 14 fairways in regulation, Shoemaker used a solid short game and timely iron shots to card five birdies en route to a 1-over 71, which puts him in a tie for 14th place.
“Putts were rolling in for me good, short game was definitely a strong point,” said Shoemaker, a 2015 Findlay High School graduate who golfs collegiately for the University of Toledo. “I kind of struggled to hit a few greens out there, which I think that was kind of the weak point today.
“I think if I can come out tomorrow and just hit a few more greens, a few more fairways, the putter’s feeling really good, I think I can really go low.”
Dublin’s Justin Perdue had seven birdies en route to a 5-under 65 and the lead after the first round. Cincinnati’s Jake Fox played his final three holes in 3-under, including an eagle on the par-5 18th, to move into second place with a 66.
Findlay’s Jon Brimley, who is playing on an exemption as the reigning Findlay Country Club club champion, shot a 67 to sit in third. Columbus’ Christopher McKay (68) and Stephen Anderson (69), of Hobe Sound, Florida, were the only other golfers who shot under par in the 144-player field.
Shoemaker’s final birdie came after his drive found the right rough on the par-4 16th hole. He was amongst the trees about 95 yards out, but was able to hit a sand wedge over the trees and give himself a good look at birdie.
He drained the 20-foot putt to get back to even par after back-to-back bogeys.
“That putt on 16 was big for me,” Shoemaker said. “I told my caddy (2016 Findlay High graduate Sam Griffith) that we’re going to go up there and we’re going to make this putt. There’s no other way, we had to make the putt.
“I had to hit a high soft one, try to land it before the green because the greens were so firm. Anything out of this rough just shoots to the back of the green. You have to play it short, so I played it perfect.”
Shoemaker responded with birdies after most of his six bogeys.
A tee shot well left of the fairway on the par-4 fifth hole that doglegs to the right led to a bogey.
He also short-sided himself on the par-3 sixth after hitting his tee shot long and left with a back left hole location. Shoemaker hit a flop shot that landed close to the hole, but ran out to about 25 feet away. He 2-putted for bogey to drop to 1 over.
However, a drive right down the middle on the par-4 seventh and a pitching wedge from 130 yards out gave him a 20-foot putt for birdie. He knocked it in to get back to even par.
“I knew I had to get one back because the past two holes were a little rough,” Shoemaker said.
Shoemaker started his round with a birdie on the par-5 first hole. He nearly holed his third shot from a greenside bunker and made a downhill 4-foot putt coming back.
Shoemaker birdied the short par-4 10th, playing just 310 yards, and the 344-yard par-4 13th. He hit his drive on No. 13 to about 40 yards away in the rough, hit his chip to within a few feet and tapped in for birdie to get to 1-under through 13.
A bogey on the par-3 17th after missing the green right gave Shoemaker his 1-over score.
He will begin his second round on No. 10 at 9:30 a.m. today.
Former Riverdale and University of Findlay golfer Kory Kotterman, who tied for first in the Ohio Amateur qualifier at the Fremont Country Club last month, got off to a tough start and was 6-over through five holes (started on No. 10). He shot a 42 on his first nine and a 40 on his second nine to card a 12-over 82 (tied for 136th).
“I just hit it in spots you can’t hit it into out here,” Kotterman said. “It’s tough to make up and downs from bad sides of the green, short side yourself, and I didn’t keep the ball safe at all and hit very little greens and that’s hard to do. Hard to keep getting up and down on these fast greens.”
Kotterman’s best shot of the day came on the 170-yard par-3 second hole. His tee shot with a 9-iron hit about pin high right of the green, but kicked left and rolled to within six inches. He tapped in for birdie to get to 6 over through 11 holes.
“I hit a great 9-iron, it just stayed out (to the right) a little bit on me, but I got a good bounce off that side of the hill and rolled right down in front,” Kotterman said. “Just got a good bounce. That’s the way it goes sometimes. That’s one lucky bounce I got today, so I could take it.”
Kotterman, however, bogeyed the next six holes to drop to 12 over. He finished with a par on the par-4 ninth after hitting his second shot about five feet below the hole.
Jacob Miller, an assistant golf coach for the University of Findlay, had three birdies, six bogeys and a double bogey for a 5-over 75 and is tied for 64th.
Findlay’s John Zitkovic and University of Findlay golfer Ryan Wilburn both shot a 78 and are tied for 100th, while former Van Buren standout Matt Beckett (79) is tied for 109th.
Brimley and Kotterman will begin their second round at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively, on No. 1.
Zitkovic (8:30 a.m.), Beckett (8:50 a.m.), Miller (9:20 a.m.), Shoemaker (9:30 a.m.) and Wilburn (9:40 a.m.) will each begin their round on No. 10.
Send an E-mail to Mike Burwell