Evans struggles in Men’s City opening round after long layoff; Howell leads by two

On paper, Robert Evans entered the 2018 Austin Men’s City Championship as easily the hottest player in the area.

His last three starts in tournaments leading up to Thursday went a little something like this: win, win and win.

Evans won the Hill Country Amateur at Leander’s Crystal Falls Golf Club in early June, then a week later he won at Jimmy Clay Golf Course in an exhausting Austin Mid-Am Match Play tournament. Later in the month, he claimed his third victory in a row when he won at Great Hills Country Club in the Cup at Great Hills.

But Evans hasn’t been able to play much golf in the last month, and it showed during Thursday’s opening round of the Men’s City at Roy Kizer Golf Course when he shot an even-par 71 to finish the day in a tie for eighth and five shots off the lead.

“It was definitely a struggle,” Evans said. “I made a couple stupid mistakes on the greens. Overall, I’m glad that I didn’t completely shoot myself out of it. I still have a chance.”

At times on Thursday, Evans showed plenty of frustration.

Lying two from in front of the green at the par-5 17th after a perfect tee shot and a superb low hook for a layup, Evans had a relatively simple pitch to get the ball up and down for birdie. But his pitch came up short of the ridge that guarded the pin, and Evans threw his wedge to the turf in disgust. He missed his birdie effort that would’ve gotten him back into red figures for the day and settled for par, heading to the 18th with only more frustration.

After another perfect drive at No. 18, Evans went right after the flagstick and stuck his approach roughly 12 feet behind the hole. But his birdie putt again slid past the hole, and Evans settled for a 71 at Kizer.

All in all, it was a very up-and-down round for Evans. He played his first six holes in 1 over before rebounding with back-to-back birdies to get him to 1 under. A bogey at the par-4 ninth dropped him back to even.

“Honestly I wasn’t sure because I haven’t really hit any shots,” Evans said of his form heading into the tournament. “I was unsure. I didn’t know what was gonna happen.”

Evans wasn’t able to play in last month’s Firecracker Open. The 34-year-old software engineering manager at NSS Labs has a three-month-old son and 20-month-old daughter at home, and he spent the weekend of the Firecracker at home taking care of them.

“I just couldn’t play it,” Evans said.

Evans hasn’t been able to play much golf lately. He said he’s played casually twice in the past month. For Evans, having kids has given him a new perspective with his game.

“In some ways I feel like having kids has actually improved my golf game,” Evans said. “It’s not that I don’t care. I care about what I shoot out here, but it’s not my priority. I’m not putting a bunch of pressure on myself to come out here and win every tournament that I play in because I’ve got so much stuff going on at home that it really, to be quite honest, it’s not that important.”

Seger Howell, who finished tied for second in last year’s Austin Men’s City Championship, leads by two shots at 5 under. For the full leaderboard after round one, click here: leaderboard.htm

For round two’s tee times at Lions Municipal Golf Course, click here: pairings.htm

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