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Jul. 8—It took one trip to Palmetto Golf Club for Alex Goff to figure out that the course suits his game quite nicely.

A year ago, Goff capped his Palmetto Amateur debut with a tie for 18th. He put the same strategy to use in Wednesday’s opening round, and the rising junior at the University of Kentucky holds the solo lead by a shot after a 5-under 66.

“I’m just gonna keep hitting fairways and greens and playing smart,” he said. “The front nine, you’ve kind of got to play a little bit more safe, especially holes 3-7, and then you can kind of attack a little bit. I played safe where I needed to and jumped on the beginning of the back nine, and I’m going to stick with the same game plan the rest of the week.”

Goff played the front nine in even-par 34, then birdied four of the first five holes on the back side. He made a key par save on the par-4 15th after his drive found the right fairway bunker, and he capped a bogey-free back nine with a birdie on 18 after laying back and hitting hybrid off the tee rather than trying to power a driver up to the green.

“The strength of my game is usually my wedges,” he explained. “If I can just be in the fairway with a wedge, that’s usually how I’m gonna approach it.”

His 65 came from the final grouping of the day, putting him one shot ahead of four players at 4-under 66 and another shot clear of five players at 3 under.

One of those in the 67 club is Palmetto member Brian Quackenbush, who continued his recent hot streak with a four-birdie, one-bogey performance from what he called a comfortable mid-am grouping with Jordan Sease and Chad Wilfong.

“I made all the putts I needed to. I didn’t put myself in positions where I couldn’t escape,” he said. “When I did kind of screw up, I got back in position. Stuff like on No. 3, I hit it in the left trees, I chipped it out, I wedged it on and I made par. Stuff that you can get in trouble and make some big numbers if you just start going for it from the wrong places, so I think I did that well and I putted really well.”

Quackenbush said he was surprised the course didn’t play to its full length, with tees moved up on several holes, which in turn meant he wasn’t surprised to see so many players (21 by the end of the day) under par.

“The course played like it normally does every Saturday and Sunday morning when we play in the 9 o’clock group,” he said. “The greens were a little bit faster. We’ve got a little bit more rough, but that just popped up over the past couple of weeks.”

The group at 4 under includes former Alabama golfer Tyler Hitchner, the University of Tennessee’s Jake Hall, James Madison’s Neal Shipley and Clemson’s Zack Gordon. Gordon, who helped the Tigers to a win this spring at the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate, is coming off a semifinal appearance in the 121st North & South Amateur at Pinehurst No. 2 — the same event Tyler Strafaci won last year before winning the Palmetto Am.

In the group at 3 under with Quackenbush are Charlotte’s Carson Ownbey, Ohio State’s Patrick Schmücking (who made back-to-back eagles on the 14th and 15th holes), Alabama’s Thomas Ponder and Ole Miss grad transfer Evan Brown.

Brown knows how to make birdies in bunches at Palmetto, having fired a third-round 62 on his way to a playoff loss at the 2019 Palmetto Am, and he eventually settled himself after an up-and-down start to his round Wednesday. He parred just one hole — the first — on the front nine yet turned in even par. An eagle on 10 and birdies on 13 and 18 got him to within two of the lead.

The scorecard of the day belonged to England’s John Gough, a Palmetto first-timer. He started slow and said he learned on the front nine how penal Palmetto can be, and he turned in 5-over 39. An eagle on the par-5 10th ignited a bogey-free back-nine 29 for a 68 that has him three off the lead.

Reigning Palmetto club champion Cameron Biddle (77), a rising junior at South Aiken, had his round derailed when he dropped four shots on the 16th and 17th holes. Former Aiken Hornet Peter Marra (79) had a rough start with a front-nine 40, then finished his round bogey-double bogey.

The second round is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, though that is subject to change due to bad weather in the forecast.