UPPERCO — Kevin Grady's first round of competitive golf in nearly five years didn't start quite like he had planned.
The 2005 Century High School graduate and former Times Co-Player of the Year found himself 2-over par through four holes at Piney Branch Golf Club, site of this year's Carroll County Amateur tournament. Grady, one of eight players in the championship flight, felt like he needed to take advantage of the soft conditions and tricky pin placements in order to contend for a title.
So Grady went into attack mode. And it paid off.
The Woodbine native collected four birdies on his front nine and an eagle on the back, good for a 4-under 67 and a victory Monday in the first Carroll amateur since 2011.
"There were some really good pin placements, really difficult pin placements," Grady said. "I did a really good job of distance control. I probably had four 10-footers for birdie that I missed. I played really well."
Grady started his round on hole No. 10 and played his first nine in 3-under 33 thanks to birdies on 14, 15, 16, and 18. He reached the green on the par-5 second hole in two thanks to a lengthy tee shot and solid hybrid approach. Grady sank an 8-foot putt for eagle.
"Pretty simple putt," he said.
Playing partners Brian Trumpler, Scott Brennan (the tournament champ in 1995), and Randy Valenstein watched Grady cap his round with another birdie on 9, his fifth of the day, after up-and-down par saves on Nos. 4 and 8.
"Other than that," he said, "it was pretty stress free."
Hampstead native Bennett Wisner finished second in the championship flight with a 71 behind six birdies, while Winters Mill graduate Devon Lesniak was third with a 73. Joshua Vogel, playing Piney Branch for the first time, finished fourth after shooting 78.
Wisner, who plays his college golf at Loyola, played with Lesniak, Vogel, and Bruce Smith in the other top-flight foursome (they started on the first hole). Wisner, a former Piney Branch stroke play champ, was even with Lesniak through 16 holes after a bogey on No. 16, but edged his partner with birdies on 17 and 18.
"I actually thought I was 1-down heading into 17," Wisner said. "My mindset was just go at everything, with how soft it was."
Wisner and his group finished before Grady's, so his 71 looked tough to beat as Piney Branch pro Jeff Zachman, new organizer of the Carroll Amateur, posted numbers on the outside scoreboard.
Until Grady came in with his scorecard, that is — Grady's 67 is the lowest 18-hole score in tournament history for championship flight players.
After his high school career ended, Grady spent a year in Hilton Head, S.C., in the International Junior Golf Academy's post-graduate program in an effort to become a better player and get ready for college. A four-year career at Division II University of South Carolina-Aiken followed, and Grady soon worked his way onto a professional tour based out of Charlotte, N.C.
Grady said a wrist injury in 2011, however, left caused him thinking about a change.
"Financially it just made more sense to get a real job," joked Grady, 28, who lives in Ellicott City and works near Columbia.
Grady said he regained his amateur status last summer to play in a friend's member-guest tournament. But before Monday, he hadn't played in a big-time tournament since a tour-qualifying event in October of 2011.
Grady said he was happy to compete in the Carroll Amateur, an annual summer event from 1992-2011 at Wakefield Valley before the tournament fizzled and Westminster course closed in 2013. Monday's tournament fielded 43 players, and Zachman said he's hoping the future numbers will increase now that the amateur is back on the Carroll golf calendar.
"I love it. I think it's awesome," Wisner said. "I think that it should be, and can be, a lot bigger. I think it'll be nice, especially to have it here. It's a great course."
Championship division: 1. Kevin Grady 67, 2. Bennett Wisner 71, 3. Devon Lesniak 73, 4. Joshua Vogel 78, 5. Bruce Smith 81, 6. Brian Trumpler 83, 7. Scott Brennan 85. 8. Randy Valenstein 90.
Regular division gross: 1. Rick Broderick 77.
Regular division net: 1. Randy Clark 68, 2. Scott Murdick 69, 3. Jim Horn 70.
Senior division gross: 1. Kevin Lee 73, 2. Michael Myirski 74, 3. Larry Siu 78.
Senior division net: 1. Donald Meyer 65, 2. Pres Wilhelm 67, 3. Bill Stricker 67.
Carroll County Amateur winners
Year Winners Score
2016 Kevin Grady 67
2011 Ray Sheedy 151*
2010 Ray Sheedy 144*
2009 Ray Sheedy 149*
2008 Jon Walker 72
2007 Ray Sheedy 72
2006 Ray Sheedy 74
2005 David Bittner 72
2004 J.D. Byers 74
2003 David Bittner 76
2002 Bob Rosenberger 74
2001 Ray Sheedy 70
2000 David Bittner 74
1999 Charlie Palmer 74
1998 Charlie Palmer 76
1997 Howard Tiger 73
1996 David Bittner 78
1995 Scott Brennan 77
1994 Charlie Palmer 74
1993 Charlie Palmer 76
1992 David Bittner 73
* Two-round total