FLORENCE, S.C. – Finishing outside the top 60, Daniel Coker found himself looking up at a long list of names ahead of him following last year’s Grant Bennett Florence Junior Invitational.
Following Thursday’s opening day of the 2019 SCJGA event, everyone is now looking up at the Hartsville High standout.
Coker shot an opening-round 69 at Florence Country Club to finish the day at 2-under – one shot ahead of a four-person group right on his heels.
He looks to carry that momentum into today’s final round, which begins at 8 a.m. Coker tees off at 10:15 a.m. in a group that includes Wilson High’s Pake June (-1).
“I felt pretty good out there,” Coker said. “It’s a real confidence-builder for me. I’ve never really been in contention even though I’ve played that course before. But I just play me good. If it’s good enough, it’s good enough and if it’s not, it’s not.”
It was certainly good enough on Thursday. After bogeying the third hole, Coker came right back with a birdie on the par-3 fourth.
“I made the bogey and came back and got (my first shot) within six inches of the hole,” he said. “A guy I was playing with (Matthew Hutto) actually got a hole-in-one on that same hole. That was kind of crazy.
“But it just all sort of came together for me at one time and everything just went my way.”
Even after a bad second shot on 15, Coker managed to save par and birdied the next hole, finishing with three on the day.
“I try to just get into the routine and just play golf,” he said.
He’ll try to do the same today, but has eight other golfers within three strokes. Blythewood’s Hutto (-1) is in the second group along with Beaufort’s Jerry Bruns, Pageland’s David Oliver IV and June.
June finished with two bogeys, but like Coker he was able to immediately answer them with birdies on the following holes.
“I made a bunch of good pars and felt like I rolled the putter pretty good today,” he said. “I made some good putts and some good iron shots.”
June’s round turned on No. 16, he said.
“I was two-over at that point and that was my seventh hole,” June said. “I hit a very good 6-iron and my day kind of turned around from there.”
Hilton Head’s Derek Bruce finished at even par and the Upstate’ s Jackson Berry, Spencer Benton and Andrew Gregory all finished at 1-over.
Trinity-Byrnes’ Gene Zeigler, the No. 2-ranked junior golfer in the state, carded a 4-over 75 and is tied for 23rd place.