Strickland recovers from slow start, tying Smith for top spot

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   Ryan Strickland picked up right where he left off in 2002.
   During the first round of the East Tennessee Amateur Golf Tournament, Strickland began on a rough note, but shot a 29 on the back nine to tie with Matt Smith for the lead of the Championship division.
   The Austin Peay standout eagled and dropped five birdies during his 18-hole outing.
   "29 on the back nine is an achievement in itself," said Strickland. "I got it up and down and there was no pressure at all. I'd like to win it again, but it's good to see all of the Austin-Peay guys out here."
   Strickland is still debating whether or not to turn pro.
   "I'm going to try to play in the U.S. Amateur one more time, if that doesn't work out, I'm turning pro," he said.
   Strickland was joined on the course by teammates Joe Humston, Adam Shanks and Jerod Baldwin.
   Smith, the Virginia native and Tusculum College golfer, had a strong round at Elizabethton, making some key putts en route to his 68.
   "It's a good tournament," Smith said. "I've had a great time competing against the good players. But I've gotta play well tomorrow to have a chance to win."
   Derek Adams finished third with a 69, while five players (Adam Shanks, Jerod Baldwin, Bryan Rodgers, Mark Meredith and Chris Guy) tied for fourth with a 70.
   Glen Cowan shot a 71 to lead the Seniors Championship, while Don Kite was second with a 72.
   "One day in a while, I'll get out and play like I did today," said Cowan. "I've never won an individual tournament, so maybe I can continue this and get my best finish."
   Cowan believes he will have to have a strong finish to stay in contention.
   "If I go through the first four holes and par, I'll do pretty good," he said. "I doubt I can win it and I wish I had more confidence, but if I can keep my mind on what I'm doing, who knows."
   The Flight Play division dwindled down to the semifinals Friday, as four winners from each flight took an extra step at winning some choice merchandise.
   The winners Saturday advance to Sunday's final, while the golfers with a 1-1 record play in a consolation match.