LUMBERTON — Brad Locklear had a simple goal as he navigated Pinecrest Country Club on Friday during the first round of the Robeson County Golf Championship.
“I told myself if I could stay patient, then I would get the putts and the opportunities,” he said. “That’s what I did.”
The 2012 county champion fired a 3-under 69 to carry a three-stroke lead into Saturday, posting the only round under par in the championship division.
“I think I just managed my game,” he said. “I had a few slip ups, but it’s the first day and I feel good about the score I shot.”
Coming out of the gate with three birdies on the front nine, Locklear made the turn at 3 under. He followed with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 to get to 5 under, but finished with three bogeys over his final seven holes to finish at 69.
Looking ahead at his final 36 holes, Locklear said he doesn’t have a score in mind, but he’ll be sticking to his plan.
“I just want to give myself the most opportunities and go from there. I’m trying not to keep a number in my head, but maybe (Saturday) I can take advantage of some opportunities I left out there. Mainly, I want to stay patient.”
Defending champion Steve Pippin, along with Ryan Bass and Dyrck Fanning, sits three shots back at even par.
Fighting his driver throughout the day, Pippin finished with three birdies and a trio of bogeys.
“My drive was my weakness today,” Pippin said. “But I felt good coming in on (Nos.) 17 and 18 with the way I hit the ball.”
He helped his cause by rolling in birdies on three of the course’s four par 5s, but said he couldn’t find consistency until the end of his round.
“I hit it around and scrambled around for pars,” he said.
Pippin started his round with three-putt bogey on the par-3 second before rolling in his first birdie of the day on the par-5 eighth to make the turn at even par.
He moved into red figures with a birdie on No. 11 and followed a bogey on the par-4 13th with his final birdie of the day on No. 15. A bogey on No. 16 pushed him back to even par for the tournament.
Despite the inconsistent play for most of his round, Pippin is confident in his position with two rounds left to play.
“I feel like I figured out what I was doing with my drive. The last two holes I found something,” he said. “I feel pretty good about. I kept myself in it to give myself a chance. I think 6 under for the tournament is a good number to go for.”
Connor Haskins, John Haskins, Kyle Covington and Scott Benton sit four strokes back at 1 over.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.