It’s a bit of superstition and a bit of strategy that Nixa coach Jeff Lotz employs while telling his golfers not to use the same iron or wood after hitting a ball out of bounds.

By that, Lotz doesn’t want the Eagles to follow up with the same club on that hole. He’s fine with them pulling that club out of their bag for the rest of their round.

Good thing because Johnathan Miller’s 4-iron was mostly very good to him Monday during the Springfield Invitational at Millwood Golf & Racquet Club. He carded an 85 to lead the Eagles to a fourth-place finish.

“I didn’t hit any divers today,” Miller said. “I used a 4-iron on most of the tee boxes.”

For the majority of his round, Miller was in the fairways off the tee box. He was out of bounds on two holes, but kept his damage to a minimum. 

“This was a good confidence booster for me because recovery after bad shots is what I need to work on the most,” Miller said. “I’ve been working on that. Usually if I have a bad hole, it lasts three or four holes. I know I have to calm down after a bad hole.”

Miller’s temperament was put to the best immediately. He started on the par-5, 509-yard No. 12 hole and his tee shot sailed out of bounds. After taking a drop, he hit a house with his third shot.

“I was a little nervous and hit one into some trees,” Miller said. “Then, after I hit the house, I just played it out onto the fairway and hit a 56-degree (wedge) up to 8 feet of the pin. I missed the putt, just barely. I lipped it out and had a (double-bogey) seven. 

“I told myself, ‘I never do good on the first hole, anyway’ and moved on. I made a par on the next hole.”

Even after opening with a double-bogey, Miller shot a 41 on his first nine holes and a 44 on his final nine.

He didn’t have any birdies, but had opportunities.

“No. 10 was a good hole for me,” Miller said. “I hit a 4-iron down the middle of the fairway and was 135 (yards) in, which is my sweet spot for a pitching wedge. I hit it onto the green about a foot away from the pin. But I didn’t take my time to line up the putt and my putt went around the entire cup and missed. I had to settle for a par. On another hole, I hit a 52-degree (wedge) 6-8 feet of the hole, but my putt lipped out.

“I had some dumb mistakes. Otherwise, I could have been in the low 80s. That’s where I’d like to be.”

Nixa’s 354 also included an 88 by Sam La Rocca, an 89 by Cole Eaglebarger, a 92 by Caleb Faulk and a 104 by Hunter McConnell.

The Eagles have played on two of the faster greens in the area at Millwood and Fremont Hills Country Club over the past week. They’re looking forward to playing against host Branson and Ozark at Pointe Royale Golf Course on Tuesday.

“Putting (at Millwood), it’s not as fast as at Fremont,” Miller said. “But if you get behind the hole, you’re going to have a breaking putt. You’re not going to have a straight putt on this course at all.

“I played with a guy from Branson today and he told me just aerated the greens at Pointe Royale, so they should be a little slower.”

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