Cooper Sears was 3-under par after his first hole Wednesday in the opening round of the Southern Amateur Championship.
It was an albatross, in nearly every sense of the word.
"Pretty nerve-racking," said Sears, who is heading into his junior season at Middle Tennessee State University. "At that point, I just want to get through the round, and par out. But actually, that didn't happen at all."
An albatross, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is both a web-footed seabird as well as something that causes persistent deep concern or anxiety, but has an entirely different meaning in the world of golf.
To achieve an albatross, a golfer must hit a second shot into the hole on a par 5, or post a hole-in-one on a par 4, a feat so rare that it's been estimated that the odds of doing so are a million to 1.
Sears, of Old Hickory, Tenn., said he had no inkling what he was about to accomplish after hitting his tee shot more than 320 yards on the 544-yard opening hole at Chenal Country Club's Founders Course.
But he said his ball, which landed just right of the fairway, was sitting perfectly in the rough, 221 yards from the hole.
Sears pulled out a 5-iron, hit it perfectly, but never did see it land.
"At first, I thought I had lost the ball," Sears said.
Sears, along with playing partners Cody Banach and Philip Nijoka, scoured the area in front of the green and behind it.
"I either thought it was in the front bunker or over the green, so I was going back and forth right there," Sears said.
One place Sears did not bother to check was the hole, where Banach's father found it.
" 'Bud, I think you holed it out,' " Sears said, recalling the scene.
Sears' response was nearly stunned silence.
"OK," he said. "We'll take it."
The rest of the round was erratic and anticlimactic.
Sears either birdied or bogeyed 10 of the final 17 holes and finished with a 1-under 70, five shots out of the lead held by Texas A&M's Walker Lee.
"It was a pretty radical round, for sure," Sears said. "Wild. I kinda always play golf like that. I hit it all over the place. I hit it long. Pretty typical round for me."
Except for that first hole.
"I'm going to go back and tell my buds in Nashville," Sears said.
An Arkansas angle
Fayetteville's Luke Long, the top finisher Wednesday among those with Arkansas ties at 2-under 69, said he doesn't feel extra pressure to play well because he's playing in his home state.
"It's just another tournament, except I get to play at home, pretty close to home," said Long, who plays college golf at the University of Houston.
Long, one of the first players to tee off Wednesday, said figuring out the wind direction on the Founders Course is a challenge.
"I thought the wind was up just a touch in the morning," he said. "It was swirling, out there, so it was tough to diagnose where it was coming from."
Long, who starts his second round at 1 p.m. today on the 10th tee, said he knows what he needs to do to be a factor the final two days.
"I'll try to post a lower score, see if I can't move up the leaderboard a little bit, get in contention," said Long, who is in a nine-way tie for 13th.
Long is ahead of all six Arkansas Razorbacks golfers in the field: Julian Perico (71), Tyson Reeder (72), William Buhl (72), Mason Overstreet (73), Wil Gibson (75) and Luis Garza (76).
Arkansas State golfer Julien Sale (73) is tied for 65th.
Other Arkansas golfers in the field include Fayetteville's Matthew Cole (75), Cabot's Connor Gaunt (76), Jonesboro's Devyn Pappas (84) and Little Rock's Scott Steed (85).
Brandon Einstein, 5 under through 10 holes, finished with a 2-under 69 to tie for 13th after the opening round.
You can say Einstein, from Clemmons, N.C., played a smart round of golf, and he'll just play along.
"They're great, they're great," Einstein said of the jokes he endures on a daily basis. "I've had about 3 or 4 rules officials come up to me and make these corny jokes. I'm like, 'OK, have a good day, it's good to see you, too.' I just laugh it off."
Einstein, who plays at High Point University in North Carolina, said his round could have been much better if he had not missed a 2-foot putt for birdie on the par-5 12th.
"The wheels started coming off after that," he said.
Einstein said he was fortunate to have his girlfriend, Mary Slade-White, on the bag during a round of golf where the heat index touched 110.
"She was fine the whole time," he said. "She was handing me water, handing me food. She was good."
Slade-White carried Einstein's bag and propped his emotions.
"She keeps me going, keeps me patient," Einstein said. "She's always like, 'Par's a good thing, par's a good thing.' "
Smart guy, that Einstein.
Sports on 07/18/2019