BY DALE A. LEONARD
Nick Sparks has seen a good bit of the Tupelo Country Club course this week.
Today, he'll be playing for the fourth straight day on the par-72 layout.
Playing in his second two-day tournament, Sparks fired an opening-round 76 Thursday to lead the Male 12-13 division of the 2003 Coca-Cola Junior Tour Players Championship.
The eighth grader from Belmont finished third with a two-day total of 161 at the Pros of Tomorrow junior tournament which concluded Wednesday at TCC.
"The greens were not as fast as they were (Wednesday)," said Sparks, who bested Andrew Noto in a three-hole playoff during the second round of the the Pros of Tomorrow.
He leads Calhoun City's Will Black by one stroke heading into today's final round. Black finished one shot better than Sparks at the Pros tournament.
Sparks had trouble on the No. 8 and 9 holes, but birdied the Nos. 6, 11 and 18 for a one stroke lead.
"I three-putted eight for a bogey and missed from 60 yards out on my driver for a double bogey on nine," said Sparks. "I was even on the back nine. I guess I had a good round today."
Also having a good opening round was his cousin, Tyler Sparks. Tyler shot a one-over 73 to lead the Male 14-15 Division. Sparks managed four birdies despite slick greens - some which had traces of dew. Trent Dixon was two shots backs while Tyler's other cousin, Curt Sparks, was third with a 77.
The best round of the day came in the Male 10-11 Division. Fulton's Chad Ramey sizzled with an even-par 36. Ramey, who will defend his U.S. Kids World Championship next week in Williamsburg, Va., had three birdies on day to lead by six strokes.
Clif Hanna, III and Sanders West had rounds of 41.
The course proved favorable for Nate Roof, Clay Jarrell and Clay Waycaster. The Tupelo High School trio -who also competed in the Pros of Tomorrow- hold the top three spots, respectively, in the Male 16-18 division.
Roof fired a three-over par 75 while Jarrell posted a 78. Waycaster and Justin Rye each were six shots off the lead.
"On the front nine I got off the rough start," said Roof. "I shot a 40 but on the back I had more birdie opportunities. I had six par putts and two birdies on the back nine."
Jarrell had no birdies on the day, but had three long par puts to finish with a 78.
"I didn't hit the ball well today, but I made a lot of good par putts to stay in the round," said Jarrell. "I made a 20-footer on No. 13 for par, a 12-footer on No. 11 and a 10-footer on three for par and that really saved my round."
In the female division, Ingomar's Rebecca White shot an 87 while Britany Hanna, the regular season points leader, ended with a round of 101.
Today's final round begins with the females teeing off at 8 a.m.