Polk County’s Ballard two shots out of lead after first day of state 2A golf tournament

Will Ballard putts on the 18th hole at Longleaf Golf and Country Club during Monday's opening round of the state 2A golf tournament.
Will Ballard putts on the 18th hole at Longleaf Golf and Country Club during Monday’s opening round of the state 2A golf tournament (photo courtesy Trey Dusenbury).

Will Ballard fired an even-par 71 Monday to sit in a tie for fourth place after the first round of the state 2A golf championship in Southern Pines.

Playing the 6,591-yard course at Longleaf Golf and Country Club, Ballard finished the day two shots behind leader Eric Edwards of Salisbury. Newton-Conover’s Trey Burton and Shelby’s Elliott Grayson shared second with scores of 70.

Ballard is in a three-way tie for fourth with Beddingfield’s Stephen Abrams and Southwest Edgecombe’s Cole Jefferys.

“I wanted to get through the first day and be in the swing of things and be around the lead,” Ballard said. “I’m two shots off the lead, so I’m right where I want to be.”

Ballard bogeyed the first hole of the day, but rebounded to post a 36-35 to be in the mix for a state title. As he did Monday, Ballard will tee off Tuesday at 8:10 a.m., giving him a chance to post a score for others to chase.

“I think it’s easier for me. I’ve always liked playing early,” Ballard said. “I’d rather go out and get a score up there than to follow one. I don’t have to worry about a score. I can just play my own game and focus on what I have to do.

“After about the fourth hole, I got into a good groove and made a few birdies. The course sets up really well for my swing.”

Ballard will again be paired with Abrams and Providence Grove’s Justin Emmons, who had a 72 on Monday. Edwards, Grayson and Burton will tee off at 10:10 a.m.

“I’m not too uptight, but I’m not too relaxed,” Ballard said. “I think I’m where I need to be mentally. I definitely have a good feeling about it.”

In the team race, defending champion Newton-Conover holds an eight-stroke advantage over the field. The Red Devils recorded a 304, good for an eight-shot lead over Shelby, with perennial power Salisbury in third at 315, 11 shots back. Salisbury won the team championship in both 2011 and 2012.

Clinton is in fourth at 317, with only 33 shots separating the top spot and the 12th team at the bottom of the standings.