The Alcoa High School golf team’s title defense got off to a sound start Tuesday.
Alcoa junior Braedon Wear’s 3-under-par 69 at WillowBrook in Manchester, Tenn., set the first-round scoring pace in the Division I – Small Class state tournament.
And teammate Gabriel Hunter, who won the 2017 state individual championship as a junior, pitched in a 72 to tie for fifth heading into Wednesday’s final round.
The Tornadoes are after their third overall state title, having also won one in 2013. They carded a first-round, 20-over 308 Tuesday to land in second place – just two shots back of Signal Mountain.
Wear’s final nine holes pushed himself and Alcoa up the leaderboards. After playing the back nine — his first nine holes of the day — at 1 over, Wear birdied Nos. 1, 2 and 6 and then added an eagle at the par-5 seventh. He bogeyed his final hole of the day to drop to 3 under.
Hunter birdied two of his final five holes to help the cause, too.
Gatlinburg-Pittman seniors Ethan Hays (71) and Aaron Johns (76) were tied for second and ninth, respectively, after the first round. They qualified as individuals. Hays briefly held the lead early Tuesday morning, when he birdied two of his first four holes to reach 2 under.
McMinn Central senior John Houk shot 74 and was tied for seventh.
In the Division I – Small Class girls’ state tournament, Madilyn Newman’s first-round, 4-over 76 for L&N Stem Academy placed her into a tie for third place just one shot out of the lead held by Summertown’s Kaley Campbell and Signal Mountain’s Lindsey Hollis.
L&N Stem Academy team was in second after the first round at 26-over 170, some 12 shots back of first-round leader Summertown (158).
Cumberland Gap was fourth at 176, and its Carley Downhour shot 76.
Campbell Penland of Northview Academy was solo sixth at 80.