Mitchell, a Roswell resident who is also a member of Canton’s BridgeMill Athletic Club, sank a 12-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 18th to earn his score. He is tied for fourth with five others, but he’s among many within a few shots of the three players — Scott Weeks, Robert Sheats and Lee Knox — atop the leaderboard at 69.
“It’s always good to get off to a good start,” Mitchell said. “It’s such a long event. You don’t want to shoot yourself out of it after the first round. I was pleased with the way I played. There were some holes that were key holes that kind of kept the round going. It wasn’t overly impressive. I just kind of kept grinding it out and it turned into a 70.
“I didn’t hit it close all day. I putted well, though, and made everything I was supposed to make, like the 6- to 8-footers. I made a few key pars that could have been easy bogeys and round-killers, so that was good.”
Last year’s Georgia Amateur runner-up, Mitchell was paired with the last two champions — David Noll Jr. and Lee Knox — to form one of the most watched groups on the 7,104-yard, par-72 course.
Knox was 4-under through 13 holes before a bogey at 15 cost him a shot. Noll was 3-over after 15 holes, but birdied 16 and 18 to finish 1 over and tied for 27th among the 144-man field.
“I got to play with Lee (on Thursday), and he was playing well,” Mitchell said. “David is always a good pairing. Anytime you can get paired with guys who are playing well, there is going to be some good mojo in the group. There’s a positive thing going on. You feed off each other. Just as when you’re playing poorly, you get that negative mojo.
“David didn’t have his best day, but he hung tough and made some birdies coming in, so I know that he’ll be there at the end of the week. I know Lee will be there, too. Hopefully, I’ll just keep grinding and we’ll see what happens.”
Strickland, a Woodstock resident, also had a solid round and kept himself in the hunt for the title despite two bogeys on the front nine. He negated them with two birdies to make the turn at even-par and played steady until a birdie at the par-3 17th left him 1 under for the round.
“I hit it really good (Thursday),” said Strickland, the runner-up to current PGA pro Harris English when the Georgia Amateur was last at Settindown Creek. “I’ve played this golf course a lot over the years and I’m really comfortable with it. It’s super hard and it kind of wears you down. Hopefully, I can continue driving it in the fairway because that’s the key. If you can drive it in the fairway, you’ll have a chance. If you don’t, it’s going to be a long weekend.
“The rough is incredible, especially around the greens. It’s so thick and (as amateurs) we don’t usually play in rough like this, so it’s tough. It’s important to hit the greens because, if you do, you can make some putts.”
Mitchell and Strickland will have to continue to play well today in order to continue play over the weekend. The field will be cut to the low 70 and ties after today’s round.
Former Etowah High School standout David Sullivan, a rising sophomore at Georgia College and State University, shot 75 and is tied for 54th. Canton’s Justin Johnson (77) is tied for 75th.