E.A. Sports Today

RTJ Trail blazing

Jacob LeCroy (65), Alex Harper (66) hold first-round lead in RTJ Championship at Silver Lakes

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

SILVER LAKES — Sometimes you play good and sometimes you learn good.

The first part of that piece of golf wisdom is pretty self-explanatory. The second part is generally accepted to mean you don’t play well, but learn a valuable lesson about your game.

Jacob LeCroy did both in Saturday’s opening round of the RTJ Championship at Silver Lakes. He played good and he learned good.

The South Alabama junior from Donoho shot a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 and in between shots picked the brain of cart partner Alex Harper on all things about the game from a next level perspective.

Harper caddies for Willy Wilcox and has toted the bag on some of the biggest stages in the game. He played well in his own right, posting a bogey-free 6-under 66 that basically mirrored LeCroy’s round. That’s 13-under-par out of the same cart, if you’re counting.

By the way, the three of them — LeCroy, Harper and Wilcox — have a round planned for Silver Lakes next week after Wilcox returns from San Diego, where he just earned an exemption into next month’s Korn Ferry Tour BMW Charity Pro-Am in Greenville, S.C.

Gary Wigington (68) and Dane Moore (69) will complete Sunday’s final group. Harrison Hughston (70), LeCroy’s former Donoho teammate, and Zach Contris (71) also posted rounds under par. 

As focused as they were when it came to hitting their shot, LeCroy and Harper kept the conversation going.

They talked about Wilcox’ inspiring comeback. They talked about the things caddies look at with their player. They talked about the difference between the players on the cusp of making it he’s played with and those who already have. And they talked about approaches Tour-level players might take on particular shots they encountered in the day’s round.

LeCroy agreed Saturday was a “play good day,” but it also was about as educational a round as he’s had in a while.

“We had a great conversation about Will and what all he’s been through and we had a lot of fun,” LeCroy said. “We talked about what he had seen out there on Tour and I’m asking questions because he’s been out there and he’s played out there with some of the best players in the world standing right there beside him.

“It was a lot of reinforcement and believing in what I’m trying to do. My coach has made me a good player and what he preaches is the same thing (Harper) and Will do out there on tour, and it’s cool to hear that. Hearing that reinforcement, especially from a person who’s been out there, is awesome to hear.”

As much as Harper helped LeCroy get a better grasp on the game’s higher plane, playing with LeCroy helped Harper as well.

Despite playing a limited number of competitive rounds a year, Harper’s game remains sharp. He has shot 66 before in the weekend group at Silver Lakes and shot 69 in the first round of this tournament in 2019, but literally going shot for shot with a 22-year-old college player in the prime of his game invigorated him.

They were both 3-under at the turn and both birdied 10, 14 and 18 coming home. The difference in their rounds was LeCroy birdied their 17th hole (Backbreaker 8) and Harper didn’t.

“It gave me energy today that I never would have had playing with a couple other buddies,” the 35-year-old said. “Playing with him, he’s just young and hungry and he’s grinding and knows what he wants to accomplish, and hearing that kind of made me feel young again. It gave me the energy to keep the pedal down and not just go through the round.”

Harper hadn’t touched a club in 12 days between a lesson from Cider Ridge’s Jammie Lett (at Wilcox’ suggestion) and Friday’s practice round, but made six birdies Saturday and had seven other looks inside 15 feet. 

NOTES: Randy and Will Reaves completed the leaders’ foursome. The group combined for a best-ball score of 12-under-par … Wigington made six birdies in his round, but they were offset by double bogey on Heartbreaker 7 … Nick Ledbetter had two of the round’s six eagles (BB3, BB9). The others were scored by Dane Moore (HB1), Cole McNeal (BB3), Morton Holcomb (HB1) and Nathan Williams (BB9) … Every hole yielded at least one birdie … Harper reported Wilcox’ second stage of U.S. Open qualifying has been moved to Roswell, Ga., which will make it easier for him to get to the KFT event in South Carolina the next day..

RTJ Championship

Jacob LeCroy333265
Alex Harper333366
Gary Wigington363268
Dane Moore343569
Harrison Hughston373370
Zach Contris363571
Jeremy McGatha373572
Dalton Chandler363672
Layton Bussey353873
Chad Calvert363773
Nick Ledbetter383573
Chris Cox363773
Cain Hollingsworth383674
Corey Ray363874
Will Reaves373774
Nick Lee403474
Luke Armstrong383674
Chandler Richards433275
Clay Calkins373875
Landon Straub373875
Jason Britton373875
Chsae Hollingsworth383876
Jake Goggans364076
Brennan Clay393776
Matt Rogers344276
Jody Wooten403777
Casey Harmon383977
Randy Lipscomb413677
Randy Reaves364177
Jeff Chapman393877
Shawn Ledbetter393877
Hunter Carr403878
Daily Thomas423678
Morton Holcomb403979
Vance Lewis403979
Alex Argo403979
Trent Ralston384179
Tanner Wells413879
Chris Sanford413879
Mason Dennis423880
Ted Heim394180
Cole McNeal433780
Mike Hughston374481
Jake Williams414081
Patrick Cooper 414081
Robert Daniel423981
Cole Contris423981
Corey Mize424082
Cliff Tucker433982
Joseph Hedgepeth433982
Joe Williams414283
Jeff Bain404383
Daniel Black404383
Michael Casey453984
Ethan Davis424284
Matt Greer404484
Zach Graham454085
Tyler Romine424385
Jared Patterson444286
Mike Lett414586
Noah Huckeba444286
Bill Gilchrist434487
Dre Davenport454287
Jeff Noah434487
Logn Forrester454388
Jason Payne444488
David Scruggs444589
Nathan Williams484290
Mike Ledbetter464490
Kevin Godshall464591
Mason Aulsbrook504292
Craig Graves474592
Parker Staton464793
Scott Jimmerson454893
Danny Casey474794
Kenny Fulmer454994
Cam Hurst494998
Tyrell Tucker564399
Fisher Prichard4952101
Gavin Johnson5052102
Marlee Hedgepeth5351104
Andy Long5553108
Mark Rains5553108
Keith Hutcheson5755112

Sunday pairings

8 a.m.: Keith Hutcheson, Mark Rains, Andy Lang
8:10: Marlee Hedgepeth, Fisher Prichard, Gavin Johnson
8:20: Kenny Fulmer, Cam Hurst, Tyrell Tucker
8:30: Danny Casey, Craig Graves, Parker Staton, Scott Jimmerson
8:40: Mason Aulsbrook, Kevin Godshall, Mike Ledbetter, Nathan Williams
8:50: David Scruggs, Jason Payne, Logan Forrester, Jeff Noah
9:00: Dre Davenport, Noah Huckeba, Bill Gilchrist, Mike Lett 
9:10: Jared Patterson, Tyler Romine, Zach Graham, Matt Greer
9:20: Ethan Davis, Michael Casey, Daniel Black, Jeff Bain
9:30: Joe Williams, Joseph Hedgepeth, Cliff Tucker, Corey Mize
9:40: Cole Contris, Jake Williams, Paatrick Cooper, Robert Daniel
9:50: Mike Hughston, Ted Heim, Ott Chandler, Cole McNeal
10:00: Mason Dennis, Alex Argo, Chris Sanford, Trent Ralston
10:10: Daily Thomas, Tanner Wells, Morton Holcomb, Vance Lewis
10:20: Hunter Carr, Casey Harmon, Jeff Chapman, Shawn Ledbetter
10:30: Randy Lipscomb, Jody Wooten, Randy Reaves, Matt Rogers
10:40: Brennan Clay, Landon Straub, Chase Hollingsworth, Jake Goggans
10:50: Jason Britton, Clay Calkins, Corey Ray, Chandler Richards
11:00: Luke Armstrong, Will Reaves, Cain Hollingsworth, Nick Lee
11:10: Layton Bussey, Nick Ledbetter, Chad Calvert, Chris Cox
11:20: Jeremy McGatha, Zach Contris, Dalton Chandler, Harrison Hughston
11:30: Dane Moore, Gary Wigington, Alex Harper, Jacob LeCroy

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