TYLER — Bullard’s Blake Elliott was in contention on the final day of the 2019 Texas State Open.
Elliott finished in third at 18-under, just three strokes off of the lead.
This year, he’s on a mission to grab that top spot in the 50th edition of the event, which teed off Tuesday at The Cascades Golf & Country Club.
Elliott was 1-over through the first seven holes and then birdied the final two holes before the turn. He then birdied four holes on the back nine to finish at 5-under for the round.
Elliott was the clubhouse leader when his round concluded.
Elliott currently sits in fourth place with his round of 65.
“It was kind of a slow start, but I started hitting the irons on the back nine and rolled in some putts,” Elliott said. “I didn’t make a birdie until 8, so it was a slow start.”
Like other local golfers and returning players Elliott said the familiarity of the course is helpful.
“It helps a lot,” Elliott said. “There’s a lot of putts, especially on 7, that are kind of tricky, so you have to play the course a few time to get the reads.”
Elliott also hopes to get a boisterous gallery in his corner for the rest of the tournament.
“Hopefully I can get some of the members from Eagle’s Bluff to come out and get loud,” Elliott said.
Playing with Elliott on Tuesday was Austin Westlake High School senior J. Holland Humphries — an SMU pledge who shot a 4-under 66 — and defending champion Kyle Pritchard.
Pitchard, who had a four-day score of 21-under in 2019, shot a 3-under 67 on Tuesday
“It was a slow start, for sure,” Pritchard said. “I was hitting the ball good on the front nine, got a few good up-and-downs, but I missed a few putts. Then on No. 8, I started making some putts. It wasn’t the best round I could have, but it was definitely a solid round.”
Pritchard said the greens are firmer this year, but he said he was able to take last year’s experience into his opening round.
“You know where to miss it, so there’s no big numbers out there if you do miss it,” he said. “I did hit it in the water, but luckily I got up and down on that hole. But just knowing where you’re going to miss it, so your up-and-downs are a little easier, is a big thing, because nobody is going to hit 18 greens out there. It’s just that kind of course.”
Bryan Baker — a 2002 graduate of Whitehouse High School — birdied three of his final five holes to finish with a 2-under 68.
“I had a few good par saves early on, and then I had a three-putt on No. 4,” Baker said. “I had a two-putt birdie on 8 to shoot even on the front nine and then I had a good back nine.”
Baker said he had a lot of friends watching him on Tuesday, so he would like to put on a show for them the rest of the week.
“My goal is to have a good day tomorrow, make the cut and see what happens,” Baker said.
With plenty of golf still to play, Baker knows it would take a lot to be the winner on Friday.
“That would be very magical,” Baker said.