O’neil Falgoust, from Monroe, La., hits out of the sand during the Harbor Oaks Mixed Invitational golf tournament Saturday. (Special to the Commercial/Mike Adam)
If getting in position to win the Harbor Oaks Mixed Invitational in Saturday’s opening round was the flavor of the day, Andy and Katie Speir turned in a fairly vanilla performance.
But it was enough to land the duo atop the first-day leaderboard as the Hot Springs Village couple fired a 68 to lead Texarkana’s Steve and Vicki DeLaughter by one stroke heading into today’s championship round.
“It was pretty much just routine,” Katie Speir said. “We didn’t have anything spectacular and didn’t have anything go bad. We just played real steady.”
The “Village People”, as Katie identified themselves, managed a bogey-free round with four birdies on the Par 72 layout, including back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18.
“We actually missed some pretty easy birdies on 14 and 15,” Katie said. “We just stood there and couldn’t believe they didn’t go in.”
Leading the field, including defending champions and playing partners Thom Shock and Pat Elliot, by a stroke with three to play, the Speirs stabbed a routine par on 16 before Katie rolled in birdie putts on the final two holes.
After tracking down Andy’s drive on 18 left of the fairway and 195 yards out, Katie laid up to 65-yards out while Andy went for the green. The results were unfavorable for Andy as his second shot found the water hazard. Katie played her approach shot to within 12 feet for a birdie opportunity. The putt was a tricky downhill slider, which she coerced into the hole, covering up Shock’s birdie and maintaining a two-stroke advantage over Shock and Elliot.
“That was a good putt,” Andy said. “We were about 10 yards closer to the green from my ball. She didn’t think she could reach the green from either place so she was going to lay up. We figure if she laid up she could make par for sure. So I thought maybe I could go for the green. We did that in the practice round yesterday and I made eagle. I hit it thin and just didn’t hit a good shot.”
A par would have put the duo in a first-place tie with the DeLaughter pair, but Katie’s putter saved the stroke and preserved the lead.
Shock and Elliot, along with Bill and Cathy Walsh, will have to make up two strokes to catch the Speirs and three strokes to take a lead. Cully and Tracie Tolbert and Tony and Teresa Horn are six shots back with 74’s, Gary and Jana Vinson had a 75 and Frank and Millie Conner signed for a 77.
Shock said he and Elliot would have to play well today to have a shot of defending their title.
“There are a lot of good golfers out here,” he said. “And we will have to turn in a good score to win it. But it wouldn’t matter if we shot 100. Any time I get a chance to play with her is special. She just has a great attitude and is such a joy to play with. It doesn’t matter how she’s playing she is always happy and can joke about her bad shots.”
Winner of two consecutive Senior State Amateur titles, Elliot said she would continue to ride Shock’s back into the winner’s circle if that’s what it took.
“I spurred him pretty hard today,” Elliot quipped. “I’m sure his shoulders are tired. And I really kicked him coming down 18.”
Elliot’s approach shot on the 18th came up short and in the drink after she decided to go for it with Shocks ball nestled firmly on the green in two, putting for eagle on the par 5 finishing hole.
Shock hit 4-iron from 195-yards out to 20-feet for eagle. He left the downhill putt a foot short but tapped in for birdie to prevent the Speir tandem from gaining ground while maintaining position on the leaderboard.
“That was probably the best shot I hit all day,” Shock said. “Once I was on it gave her an opportunity to go for it. She came up a little short but I was fortunate enough to two-putt and cover her up.”
Ralph and Rhonda Haynes lead the first flight after turning in a 2-under 70 while Rusty and Julie Gregg finished with 72 and Gary and Verona Bebow and Michael and Nancy Jackman carded a 76.
Ted and Anne Boyd lead the second flight after a 75 and are being chased by a trio of golfers at 76 including John and Pam Bowman, Hershal and Elaine Flanagan and Charles and June Markwalter.
Gary and Sue Moore head up the Third Flight after a round of 74. They are followed by Jim and Danette Murray at 75 and Sam and Pam Schisler at 76.
Marshall and Carrie Thomsen have a comfortable lead in the fourth flight, carding a 73, six strokes clear of Jimmie and Nancy Carpenter’s 79 and seven ahead of Bernie and Nona Mullen’s 80.
Rodney and Linda Landes have a one-stroke lead in the fifth flight, posting an 80 with Chuck and Phyllis Melsoni and O’Neil and Harolyn Falgoust following closely with 81’s.
Bill and Brenda Hall lead the sixth and final flight with 84, followed by Donny and Phyllis Thomas and Howard and Sharon Deapo in the clubhouse with 85’s.
Final-round action begins at 9 a.m. today with a shotgun start. The teams continue four-ball format with both players teeing off and selecting the better shot to continue. After the tee shot, players are on their own to finish the hole and the best score is recorded.