Former Runnels golfer Grant Welch holds one-shot lead in Baton Rouge Open

Former Runnels golfer Grant Welch holds one-shot lead in Baton Rouge Open
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Former Runnels High and UL golfer Grant Welch had a plan that paid off Saturday during the Baton Rouge Open at Santa Maria Golf Course.

While tough pin positions took their toll on most of the field, Welch carded three front nine birdies on his way to a 3-under 69. It was good enough for first place with Sunday’s final round still to go.

Welch, who teed off in the morning, was conservative on his approach shots. The tactic paid off with a bogey-free round.

“I haven’t been playing too much so my mentality was just to try and hit the middle of the greens,” Welch said. “I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be so I did that all day. I gave myself easy pars instead of tough situations.”

Welch ran into trouble late in his round, scrambling for pars at 16 and 18. His second shot into the par-5 18th was long. He was left with an awkward chip near a pine tree.

“I didn’t have a right-handed shot, so I backhanded it,” said Welch, who got up-and-down to save par.

Parker Johnson and Schyler Cotton each shot 70 and are one stroke back. Kenny Barouse was in fourth after a 71 while Nicholas Cristea was fifth after shooting 72.

Welch, Johnson and Cotton will tee off in the final threesome at 10:20 a.m. on Sunday.

“There are a lot of good players in this,” Welch said. “I expected to be around the lead, but I thought there was a 67 or a 68 out there, for sure. I think the wind picked up a little in the afternoon so it was to our advantage that we got off early.”

Cotton’s round featured five birdies and three bogeys. He moved to 3 under after a birdie at 14, and stayed there until a closing bogey at 18.

Johnson had two birdies and a bogey through 17 holes, and he capped his round with a birdie at 18.

Barouse was 1 over through 14 holes before finishing without a par on any of the last four holes. He made birdie at 15 and bogey at 16, and settled for a tap-in birdie after nearly holing his tee shot at the par-3 17th. At 18, Barouse knocked a hybrid on to the green from 220 yards out and two-putted for a closing birdie.

“It was a gutsy decision to go for it (on 18), but I had a good number from the fairway so I went for and made birdie,” Barouse said.

Barouse’s 71 puts him in Sunday’s second-to-last group where he will play alongside Cristea and Dustin Lambert, who shot 73.

First round Baton Rouge Open scores

Grant Welch 69

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