Austin Hitt joined select company on Monday during the first round of a U.S. Amateur qualifier at the World Golf Hall of Fame King & Bear.
Hitt, a University of North Carolina sophomore and Longwood resident, tied the course record with an 8-under-par 64, taking a four-shot lead over former Lake Mary High School teammate Linus Samuelsson, Brandon Mancheno of Jacksonville and Thomas Hodges of Monroe, Ga., entering Tuesday’s final round.
Hitt made one bogey and birdied three of his last four holes on short birdie putts at Nos. 15 and 18, and a 10-foot roll for birdie at No. 17. It matched the best score at the course since Nov. 22, 2003, when Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand shot 64 in a second-stage PGA Tour qualifier.
Also sharing the course record is Hugh Baiocchi, who had a 64 on April 1, 2002, in the final round of the PGA Tour Champions Legends of Golf.
The top-three players after the second round will advance to the U.S. Amateur Aug. 14-20 at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. It’s likely to take a low round to qualify after an opening round in which 15 players broke par and seven shot in the 60s.
The way Hitt sees it, the course might have owed him one. He had a three-shot lead at the King & Bear entering the final round of the Florida State Junior Boys last year, and shot 73 to drop to third place. The winner was Samuelsson, who fired a closing 66 to finish four shots ahead of Hitt.
“He’s never let me forget it,” Hitt said. “I got a few shots back today.”
Hitt and Samuelsson were the cornerstones of two Class 3A state championship teams at Lake Mary in 2015 and 2016, with Hitt winning the individual title in 2015. Samuelsson is head for Lipscomb this fall.
Mancheno, who won the 2016 3A championship and will enroll at Auburn next month, birdied all four par-5 holes. Samuelsson had only one bogey and finished strong with a 3-under 33 on the back nine. Hodges, a senior at Georgia College, birdied his final hole to join the group at 4-under.
Two University of North Florida players from Jacksonville, Dillon Woods and Travis Trace, shot 3-under 69. Woods birdied three of his last five holes, highlighted by a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 8, to rebound from a 2-over start through five holes.
Also logging a 69 was Corey Carlson of Green Cove Springs, a Florida State junior. Carlson’s round was sparked when he pitched in for birdie from 20 yards at the sixth hole.
The cut was 4-over, with the top-25, plus anyone within eight shots of third place, returning for the second round.