MOULTRIE -- When Jack Croyle finished his practice round on Wednesday at the Royal Lakes Golf and Country Club in Flowery Branch, just outside of Atlanta, it was 41 degrees and raining.

And the start of this morning's first round of the National Golf Association-Hooter's Pro Golf Tour event there was in serious doubt.

That was not good news for Croyle, the former Colquitt County High and Georgia State star, who is looking forward to building on a fine start in last week's tour-opening tournament in Jacksonville, Fla.

Despite winds that were perhaps even worse than those that wreaked havoc at Moultrie's Pot o' Gold Pro-am, Croyle shot four rounds of 70 for a 280, good for a tie for sixth place in the Michelob Ultra Classic at the Country Club of Orange Park.

The solid effort resulted in a $4,342 payday.

"That was my first tournament in 4 1/2 months," Croyle said. "I putted extremely well. Plus I've been seeing a swing coach up here in Atlanta and I've got myself physically fit. I've lost a little weight, toned up a little."

Then he added with a chuckle, " Maybe I'm maturing and just don't want to admit it."

This is Croyle's third year on the NGA-Hooter's Tour. Last year, he finished "in the 60s" on the money list.

"It really wasn't that good at all," he said.

But he has taken a renewed interest in his career this year.

"I'll keep pursuing this until I'm not getting any better," he said. "And I'm better now than I was last year. I'm really excited about the rest of the year."

And Croyle, who turned 26 in December, said he is not exactly an old man by professional golf standards. He noted that the average age for a golfer starting on the PGA tour is 34.

"Everybody gets caught up in seeing people like Tiger Woods and Charles Howell come right out of college," Croyle said. "But that's not how it really is."

Croyle grew up in Moultrie playing at Sunset Country Club and was one of the state's top junior players. He was the Region 1-AAAAA low medalist and, as a Colquitt County High senior, won the low medalist at the 1998 Class AAAAA state golf tournament at Jekyll Island.

After graduating from Colquitt County he went to Georgia State in Atlanta, where he had an outstanding career.

As a freshman, he broke the school's scoring average with a 72.78 and finished in the top 10 six times.

The next year, he had five top-10 finishes and fell just a stroke short of making the cut as an individual at the NCAA championships.

Perhaps his most memorable victory came on July 16, 2000, when he won the 79th Georgia State Amateur Championship at West Lake Country Club in Augusta, shooting a 286 to beat Wes Latimer of Canton by two strokes.

Also as an amateur, he finished eighth in the Southern Amateur and was fourth at the Dogwood Invitational, with three rounds in the 60s.

Following this weekend's tournament in Atlanta, Croyle will head to Auburn, Ala., on Monday for the Auburn Classic at the Auburn Links at Mill Creek.

The following week, the tour moves to Albany for a tournament at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club, but Croyle hopes to qualify that weekend for the BellSouth Classic, the PGA tour tournament to be held at the TPC at Sugarloaf in Duluth.

Croyle said he also hopes to qualify for several Nationwide Tour events this year.

In January, Croyle moved back to Moultrie.

"I needed to get back there," he said. "I'm comfortable in South Georgia. "It's where my sponsors and investors are. It's home."

Since he has been back in South Georgia, he has been taking advantage of the practice facilities available at Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, which opened last year in Valdosta.

Croyle was married last May and his wife is the head of mentoring program in Thomasville while working on her master's degree in counseling.

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