William Blount sophomore Nick Etherton looked tempted to roll his eyes when he saw Michael Bradshaw Jr.’s score get posted Thursday afternoon at Green Meadow Country Club.
Bradshaw shot 7-under 65 in the opening round of the four-day Blount County Amateur Golf Tournament. That number was written on the leaderboard in red ink, representing the score was under par.
Bradshaw was the only player in red numbers Thursday, and he already leads the Championship Division by eight shots.
“Could you just make it interesting for once?” Etherton griped, triggering a smile from Bradshaw.
The pair has a special relationship. Bradshaw coaches Etherton on the William Blount golf team. Etherton placed 10th in the TSSAA Large Class state tournament his freshman year and is competing in the open division of the Blount County Amateur.
He shot 1-over 73 in Thursday's first round and trails Open Division leader Mark McCord by one stroke. With nine players shooting in the 70s, including third-place holder Aaron Fowler at 74, the Open Division has a lot of contenders in the early going.
Terry Tuttle shot 72 Thursday to take a two-shot lead over Tony Hughes in the Senior Division. Three other players are within six shots of the lead.
Jim Gillespie shot 76 and leads the Super Senior Division by seven shots over Tony Roberts. Gillespie is seeking his 10th consecutive Super Senior title and his 17th Blount County Amateur title overall.
In the championship division, Bradshaw aims to defend his title. He’s off to a good start.
“It’s demoralizing to watch it,” Etherton said in jest. “He doesn’t let us have any fun.”
At the root of Etherton’s light-hearted jabs is deep admiration for his coach. The two joined William Blount ahead of last season — Bradshaw as the Governors’ new coach and Etherton as the former middle school state champion.
William Blount athletic director Scott Cupp said that package of incoming talent is rare for a program. Cupp is also competing in the Blount County Amateur.
“I hang my hat on those two, for sure, when it comes to golf,” Cupp said. “Really proud of both of them for William Blount High School.”
In September, Etherton shot 2-over 74 in the first round of the state tournament. He was three shots off the lead, but Mother Nature did not allow him a chance to catch up. The final round was canceled due to rain, solidifying Etherton’s 10th place finish.
Fortunately for Etherton, he’s still got plenty of time to win a state title.
“I wish I were that good at that age,” Bradshaw said. “The future is bright for him. He puts in the work and is just going to continue to get better.”
Etherton couldn’t ask for a better coach. Bradshaw won his second Blount County Amateur title last summer, finishing at 6-under 280 — 14 strokes ahead of the runner-up. He has also won the last five Green Meadow Country Club championships and made nine holes-in-one — a staggering number even by professional golf standards.
“Nick really respects Michael because he knows Michael is the best golfer in Blount County — period,” Cupp said. “He can take Nick to the next level.”
That respect was palpable in Etherton on Thursday. The teen seemed slightly taken aback hearing Bradshaw had said he wished he were as talented as Etherton at his age.
“That’s probably the biggest compliment he could give me,” Etherton said. “That really means a lot.”
Bradshaw, Etherton and Cupp will return to action Friday at Lambert Acres Golf Club. The tournament, which is played at four venues, will continue at Wild Laurel Golf Course on Saturday and Egwani Farms Golf Course on Sunday for the final round.