Crowder leads State Am tourney
By By Stan Caldwell / Special to The Star
June 7, 2002
HATTIESBURG Coming into this weekend's 89th Mississippi Golf Association Amateur championship at Canebrake Golf Club, it was no secret that the man to beat was someone nobody's beaten in this event in five years.
And if Thursday's first round is any indication, it'll be a game of catch me if you can' for Rett Crowder of Madison. The four-time defending champion set the bar awfully high Thursday with a 5-under-par 66 to lead the State Am field by three shots.
Good things happened for Crowder all over the 6,858-yard Canebrake layout. He birdied two of the three par-5s, and two of the three par-3s (he bogeyed the other) for a strong round as he bids for his fifth straight championship.
Starting at the 10th tee, Crowder got quick birdies on three of the first four holes. Birdies at No. 10 (411-yard par-4) and at No. 12 (192-yard par-3) got Crowder to 3-under, then he put his approach to within 10 yards of the pin at the par-5 13th hole, chipped to within 8 feet and sank the easy birdie putt.
Crowder was nicked with a bogey at the par-3 16th hole, but still finished at 2-under 33 at the turn. Three routine birdies on the front nine, his second nine, and no bogeys put him well ahead of the field after the first 18 holes of competition.
Crowder has a three-shot cushion over a crowd of five golfers at 2-under-par 69 that includes 10-time State Am champion Mike Taylor of Jackson and 15-year-old Austin Bowen of Hattiesburg.
Bowen played a steady round that included three birdies, and his only bogey was a save from potential disaster at the 190-yard par-3 seventh hole. He missed the green on his approach shot, then had to get it up and down, which he did on his fourth shot.
The youthful Bowen, 15, is in good company at 69. The 55-year-old Taylor flashed some of the form on Thursday that he once showed during the days when he was the unbeatable man to beat in this tournament.
However, looking up at Crowder from three shots behind after just one day, Taylor didn't sound like a man who thought an 11th championship was happening for him.
Also tied for second at 69 were Justin Emil of Gulfport and the University of Southern Mississippi, Tim Clarke of Brandon and Lane Pippin of Ocean Springs. Lurking at 1-under-par 70 were former champion Benji Nelson of Madison, Michael Hodges of Canton and Joel Edwards of Hattiesburg.
Stewart topped the list of Meridian-area players in the tournament. Stewart was grateful to just finish 1-over-par after starting off 4-over after the first six holes.
Other local players in the hunt at 2-over-par 73 include Doyle Bryan of Meridian and Dan Luke of Hickory, formerly of Meridian Community College.
After today's round, the field will be cut to the low 60 scores, plus ties.