Coffren's dream ride continues to top of Kenridge Leaderboard
Saturday, June 3, 2023
Eddie Coffren’s dream season carried over to the back nine at Farmington Country Club in Friday’s opening round of the 85th Kenridge Invitational when the University of Lynchburg golfer opened play with a 5-under par 65 and a two-shot lead over his nearest pursuers.
Coffren’s red-hot start was just an extension of his successful spring, when he was named both the ODAC Conference Rookie of the Year — and the league’s Player of the Year — in his freshman campaign. All that came with an independent invitation into the NCAA Division III championships, along with lots of hardware for the family trophy case back in Owings, Md., right off the Chesapeake Bay.
After finishing the front nine at 2-under Friday and fighting the frustration of missing a few birdie putts, Coffren remained resolute, adding three more birdies on the back in his bogey-free round.
The effort gave him a two-stroke lead over a strong quartet of contenders at 3-under 67: Farmington’s own Tim Morris, Scott Shingler, Samir Davidov and Matt Barnes. Logjammed at 68 are Garnet Manly III, Aryan Vuradi, Nikita Gubenko, Andrew Watson, Trey Wren and Max Green (Leaderboard).
In all, 15 golfers finished with red numbers over the Farmington layout, believed to be an opening-round record. Local A.J. Stouffer, Benson Blevins, Trey Ponce and Frank Alafognis are all tied at 1-under 69. Defending champion Bryce Corbett of Radford University opened with an even-par 70, which was tied for 16th in the highly competitive field.
“I was just focusing on being patient,” the 20-year-old Coffren said. “I had a lot of frustrating birdie putts I missed, but I tried not to let that get in my head at all. I just told myself to keep hitting good shots and not worry. If one [birdie putt] drops, it drops. If I don’t make it, just take a par and move on.”
Coffren’s Friday experience was quite a contrast to last year’s Kenridge, the first of his young career, when he struggled off the tee and with his putting. None of that was the case this time around, especially finishing late in the day after soaring temperatures baked the already slick Farmington greens.
The leader expects those greens to become even more challenging for Saturday’s second round (the leaders don’t tee it up until late afternoon), which means he will bring an even more conservative gameplan to the course. Coffren said he learned the hard way last year that any thoughts of playing Farmington aggressively is a mistake.
He also plans to keep himself busy throughout the early parts of the day to keep his nerves in check and not think about golf.
Certainly, there are more experienced golfers on his heels waiting for him to falter.
Shingler, one of the most accomplished golfers in the state, is still in pursuit of the Kenridge trophy, and has lots of experience in the tournament, having come close in the past.
“You know your gameplan, it’s just executing it that matters,” Shingler said. “You know where you do not want to be and you know where you can get up and down from. It’s all about executing the shot.
“You shoot a few rounds under par here and you’re gonna probably be right there in that last group on Sunday. I’ve been close a few times but haven’t been able to close the deal.”
Shingler learned a long time ago that aggressively attacking this course is a mistake.
“You’ll get bit so fast,” he chuckled. “I’ll pick my spots into the greens where I feel like I’ve got a reasonable look without having to play defense with my putter. You can get some greens out here, hole-high, where you’ve got three feet of break. I’d rather be 10-feet below the hole.”
Shingler, from Northern Virginia, is coming off a successful U.S. Four-Ball match play event with Roanoke partner Justin Young at Kiawah.
Lots of the Farmington crowd will be pulling hard Saturday for Morris, who got it to 5-under on the front nine, including only 10 putts over nine holes, before things unraveled a bit on the back. Morris, who fired a 30 on the front, suffered bogeys on Nos. 10, 16 and 17 (he birdied No. 13) to close with the 67.
“I was thinking don’t look at the scoreboard, shoot my own game and see what happens,” said Morris, who works for a national software company. “I knew if I played a good game, I’d be right in the mix.”
Morris has posted scores of 66 and 67 over his home course, but said he’s been unable to break through that barrier, something he would like to do under the pressure of competition this weekend. He wants to stick to his one-hole-at-a-time approach, which has served him well. He hit almost every fairway Friday and his putter was red-hot for the most part, something that could catapult him to the top of the leaderboard.
Barnes, who was the 2021 Washington Metro Amateur Champion, and Davidov, runner up in the Tarheel Annual Players Championship at Bryan Park (Greensboro), are right on the leader’s heels as well heading into Saturday’s shootout.
Corbett, who scored a dramatic win last season with a three-hole playoff victory and charmed the crowd with a colorful Hawaiian shirt in the final round, played well, but couldn’t crack par.
“I definitely think I could have shot lower, but I dropped shots on a three-putt on a driveable par-4 and a double bogey from 85 yards out in the middle of the fairway, so that shouldn’t be too hard to clean up the next couple of days as long as I’m hitting it as good as I am,” the defending champ said.
Last year’s Kenridge win pumped him full of confidence and inspired him to up his game, which paid huge dividends this spring for Radford. Corbett won his conference championship and went to nationals and finished tied for 20th, defeated 10 of the top 100 ranked players in the world and improved his own ranking into the top 1,000 amateurs worldwide.
“I have a lot of confidence coming into this weekend, knowing that I play well here,” Corbett said. “My putting is so much better than it was here last year, when I didn’t make any putt outside of 15 feet.”
Should he be in the mix on Sunday, the champ said he packed a new Hawaiian shirt for good luck.
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