Slow start doesn’t cost Eckstein
Todd Eckstein’s start to his Herald-Sun Golf Classic week fell in the inauspicious category on Monday.
He recovered to set himself up for a week that could be memorable in a good way.
After scoring bogeys on his first holes, Eckstein responded with six birdies over the rest of his round to score a two-under-69 in the Herald-Sun Golf Classic first round at Hillandale Golf Course.
Eckstein is three shots behind the leader, Melvin Barnes of Hillsborough, entering the final 18 holes of the stroke-play qualifying portion of the six-day tournament. Barnes fired a five-under-par 66 on Monday.
Following today’s play, the golfers will be divided into flights based upon their stroke-play scores. On Wednesday, the tournament’s four-day match play portion begins.
The tournament concludes on Sunday when the champions in each flight will be determined.
Durham’s Eckstein teed off from hole No. 10 bogeying it and No. 11 to find himself two over par. But he refused to panic.
“I wasn’t too concerned,” Eckstein said. “I knew that I could get back a couple of shots. I knew the first couple of holes that I might be a little rusty having not played in a while.”
Eckstein’s confidence was well founded. His last tournament was the N.C. Open June 4-6 at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis. He shot one-under par for the tournament to place 12th.
Looking at the upcoming holes at Hillandale on Monday, Eckstein saw places where he could make up ground if he played to his potential.
“I knew there were some birdie opportunities out there,” he said. “I knew I could get it back and wasn’t rattled by the start.”
He earned one stroke back with a birdie on No. 14 only to bogey 15 to remain at 2-over.
His hot streak began on No. 17 with a birdie, followed by another on 18.
Back at even par, he bogeyed No. 2 before righting himself with birdies on Nos. 3, 4 and 6.
Roxboro’s Joe Weinberger is one shot back of Eckstein in third place after shooting a 70 on Monday.
Weinberger began on hole No. 1, teeing off at 12:40 p.m. -- much later than Barnes or Eckstein.
Playing a steady round, he finished the front nine at even par having birdied No. 2 before bogeying No. 3.
On the back, he birdied No. 14 only to bogey No. 15.
“I guess I couldn’t handle prosperity,” Weiberger said jokingly.
But his birdie on No. 17 allowed him to finish at one-under-par for the day, giving him a chance to catch Barnes and Eckstein for medalist honors.
Weinbeger was accurate off the tee and in the fairway, making the majority of the greens in regulation. But he said he struggled with his putter and that left him closer to par than he could have been.
“I lost a lot of putts,” he said.
That’s the opposite of how he normally plays.
“Usually I’m scrambling,” Weinberger said.