Clark McDougal opened his eyes Monday morning as the defending champion of the VanMeter Cup, the unofficial championship event for District 14 golf.

As the sun began to set Monday evening, the Bowling Green senior gave no indication that he’s ready to relinquish that title to someone else. McDougal fired an even-par 36 in the first round of the two-part tournament, turning in a steady opening nine holes on the back nine at Indian Hills Country Club to earn a share of the lead heading into next Monday’s conclusion at Bowling Green Country Club.

“I was really striking it well today,” McDougal said. “I think I hit all fairways besides like two, but the thing that really got me today was my putting. I just couldn’t make anything out of 10 feet which didn’t really equal any birdies.”

McDougal had company at the top of the leaderboard in teammate and fellow Purples senior Collier Curd, who matched him with a 36.

It continued a strong week for Curd, who Saturday won the prestigious Kentucky Invitational Tournament by draining a 20-foot putt for birdie on the fourth playoff hole against St. Xavier’s Benton Williams at Harmony Landing Country Club in Goshen. Curd finished with a 4-under 67 for his third tournament victory in five events heading into Monday’s VanMeter.

“People outside of Kentucky golf don’t understand how big of an event that was for him,” Bowling Green coach Adam Whitt said of Curd’s win Saturday. “That is by far the best field in invitational golf, it’s a better field than what the state tournament will be, it’s a better field than what any regional tournament will be. It really is the strongest field in high school golf.

“He’s a kid that in my opinion has gone overlooked as far as the recruiting process has gone. He beat by our count at least 15 or 20 Division I commits that were in that tournament.”

Despite earning a share of the first-round lead Monday, Curd was far from satisfied with play.

“I had a couple misses here and there and you just can’t do those things,” Curd said. “You need to take it low and get a couple under par. Putting was fine, driver was fine, just little missed shots here and there.”

Behind those twin 36s from McDougal and Curd, the Purples built a two-shot lead over Greenwood with a combined 154. Bowling Green also got scoring finishes from Carson Myers (41) and Reed Richey (41), but it was the team’s top two that carried the day.

“Our young guys who have played at the bottom of our lineup have kind of bailed the other guys out early in the year, and this time the older guys, the experienced guys, the guys you expect to play well in the bigger events of the year ... I told the younger guys they bailed you out,” Whitt said. “They threw you a life raft today.”

Carson Sturgill’s 37 paced Greenwood, which also got a 39 from Marcello Teixeria and a trio of 40s from Jacob Lang, Michael Lang and Jaxon Moss to remain very much in contention for the boys’ team title with a combined 156.

“We’re just going out each day and talking about making good shots,” Gators coach Dan Dillingham said. “Our guys struggled a little bit on the greens today. They were playing a little bit harder and faster than I think they were anticipating and used to, so that was something different for them. But we played well overall.”

South Warren tallied a combined 165, led a 38 from Chase Hodges. Calloway Bills (40), Tyler Earnhart (42) and Tyler Hudson (45) added scoring finishes.

Sam Wheeler (46), Dalton Hogan (50), Sam Walden (57) and Gabe Marr (63) led Warren East (216).

In the girls’ tournament, South Warren junior Faith Martin continued her strong season by building a three-shot lead after shooting an even-par 35.

Martin, whose three-year run as the VanMeter champion was ended last year by Greenwood then-senior Allison Wheeler, would like to reclaim that title.

“I won it in seventh grade, eighth grade, ninth grade and then lost it last year, so that kind of stunk,” Martin said. “Getting it back would definitely help my confidence.”

Martin was off to a good start, despite what she considered only a so-so day overall.

“Honestly, my ball striking was not the best,” Martin said. “I hit a decent amount of greens, but staying over the ball, I’m definitely not as confident as I need to be going forward. I’ve lost my swing for the time being, I guess that’s the best way to say it.”

South Warren’s McKenna Stahl was Martin’s closest competition after firing a 38 as the Spartans grabbed a commanding 15-stroke lead in the girls’ team standings with a 159. Lauren Holeman (43) and Callie Spires (43) added scoring finishes.

Greenwood (174) was next, with scoring by Emma Harmon (40), Emily Morgan (41), Maiah Cisco (43) and Langley Hunt (50).

Bowling Green (196) got scoring finishes from Reagan Richardson (46), Macy Meisel (47), Leah Hughes (50) and Hallie Jo Simpson (53).

Alyssa Sterchi (57) posted the best finish for Warren East, which didn’t have a full team.{&end}

– Follow sports editor Jeff Nations on Twitter @Jeff_NationsBG or visit bgdailynews.com.

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