Shad Tuten fighting to keep KFT card on familiar turf in Savannah

SAVANNAH, Georgia — Shad Tuten’s golf career has been similar to the tortoise chasing the hare: don’t panic and maintain a steady pace. You will eventually get your rewards at the end.

Rewards at the end are what Tuten is counting on. The way his career has progressed indicates that dream is certainly within the realm of possibility.

According to his biography, Tuten, who went to nearby Elbert County High School and now resides in Naples, Florida, has never had a formal golf lesson or a coach, but here he is in his first year on the Korn Ferry Tour with aspirations of eventually making the big tour.

Nothing has come quickly for Tuten, who got serious about golf his senior year in high school when he contracted swine flu and had to miss the basketball season.

With an average score of 78 in high school, he went to Darton State College, a two-year school in Albany, where his game improved and he transferred to Armstrong State University in Savannah, where he was a two-time Division II All-America.

After turning pro, Tuten spent three years on the Latinoamerica Tour. As in college, his trajectory was continual improvement: he finished 99th on the Legion of Merit rankings his first year, 56th his second year and jumped to eighth last year, which got him a promotion to the Korn Ferry Tour.

Tuten, who has missed the cut his last four tournaments, is hoping to right the ship this weekend in the Savannah Golf Championship. He shot a 5-under-par 67 in his opening round at The Landings Club’s Deer Creek course Thursday and followed it up with a 66 in Friday’s second round. At 11 under for the event, he’s two strokes behind leaders Kevin Dougherty and Evan Harmeling heading into the weekend.

Tuten needs a good finish as he entered the event 74th in the points rankings. The top 75 retain their Korn Ferry card for next year. Tuten’s best and only top-10 finish this year came at the Korn Ferry Challenge at Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where he was second.

First-round leader Andrew Dorn shot an opening-round 63 which was a course record that stood for one day as Australian Julian Etulain shot a 10-under 62, which was highlighted by a 29 on the back nine.

Etulain, ranked 99th in the Korn Ferry players standings, shot a 3-under 33 on the front but there was nothing on his card to indicate what was going to take place over the next nine holes.

After registering birdies on Nos. 4, 5 and 7, Etulain closed out his front nine with a pair of pars. He opened the back with consecutive birdies, made a pair of pars and then closed with seven straight birdies.

“I like where I am,” Tuten said of his opening round, which found him 2 over after three holes with bogeys on No. 1 and No. 3. “I had a couple of terrible lies in bunkers that hurt me.

“I stayed patient and got it turned around on No. 8 when I birdied,” Tuten said. “That gave me some momentum.”

Playing the back nine first, Tuten salvaged his start with the birdie on his eighth hole and he followed with another birdie.

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