Upon teeing off at the Fremont Invitational on Thursday, Kelby Day was seeking something in the neighborhood of the 73 he once carded in a recreational round at Fremont Hills Country Club.
“That’s what I’d like to do every time. But it’s golf, it’s hard to do that,” the Ozark senior said.
Day settled for an 81 that, all things considered, was welcoming. After shooting a 45 over nine holes his last time out at Fremont during a dual with Nixa a couple weeks ago, an 81 kept him headed in the right direction. Most fulfilling for Day was his finish. He parred the final four holes to lock up a spot in the top 10, tying for eighth place.
“My goal was to finish my round better than I have been lately. I feel I did that,” Day said. “Finishing has been a problem. I’ve struggled off the tee with my driver and hit my driver in situations that I shouldn’t have. I’ve been taking chances I shouldn’t have been taking and hitting a bad shot.”
Day’s 45 against Nixa was over the back nine holes. Still, it didn’t surprise him that the back nine brought out the best in him for the Invite.
“I prefer the back nine,” he said. “I feel there are more birdie chances on the back nine than the front. I struggled on the front nine, so I needed to do well on the back to get my round together.”
Day also shot an 81 at the Bolivar Invitational at Silo Ridge Golf Course earlier in the week.
“I’ve been in a slump and haven’t been playing like I should,” Day said. "I haven’t been living up to expectations. I think I’m turning the corner and will finish the year strong.
“I was starting to feel the pressure,” he added. “I think that’s one reason why I was playing bad. But I stopped worrying about it and just started playing golf. It’s went a lot better since then for me.”
Ozark totaled a 355 to finish seventh the team standings, one stroke and one spot ahead of Nixa. Springfield Catholic won with a 327.
Nixa was paced by Cole Eagleburger and his 82 that tied him for 10th. He started strong, shooting a 39 on the front nine that included a birdie on No. 7.
While Day prefers the back nine, Eagleburger is all about the front nine.
“I think the front nine is a lot easier and more fun,” he said. “Shooting sub-40 over the front nine raised my confidence. Familiarity with the course helped me. I’ve played out here a number of times, so that definitely helped.”
Eagleburger shook off the 15-20 mph winds and said his tee shots set him up for a good round. He felt he could have been in the 70s.
“I got good, piercing shots off the tee,” he said. “The wind really didn’t affect my shot until it started to drop. I still need to work on my putting and shave some strokes with my short game.”
In addition to Day, Ozark received an 85 from Parker Ramsdell, a 92 from Peyton Blake and 97s from Garrett Sutherland and Brady Barnes. Blake had a 38 on the front nine and Ramsdell a 39.
Eagleburger’s 82 was followed up for Nixa by an 82 from Caleb Faulk, 94s from Sam LaRocca and Johnathan Miller and a 103 from Hunter McConnell.
The linksters did their best to keep the first round of The Masters, being played simultaneously, off their minds.
“I was kind of wishing they would let us have our phones out so we could watch it while we were playing. But they wouldn't let us do that,” Day said. “I think Rory McIlroy will win. But I’d like to see Tiger (Woods) win. Growing up, I’ve always been a Tiger fan.”
“We all want to get done, get out of here and go home watch it,” added Eagleburger. “I think Dustin Johnson will win. But I like the younger guys like Ricky Fowler, Jordan Speith and Justin Thomas.”