Robert Oxley knew what he was doing, even though people told him he didn't. After a steady regular season, the Westlake senior knew he had to do one thing to get ready for postseason golf -- change his swing.

Oxley knew this could have wrecked his game, and with it, his confidence. Still, he and Terry Shaffer, the head pro at Potomac Ridge Golf Course in Waldorf, tried to keep the tweaks subtle.

"I felt I was hooking balls and slicing a bit," said Oxley, whose scoring average was around 40 for nine holes during the regular season. "When I changed it, it started going straight, so I guess it worked."

On the first day of the Maryland state tournament Tuesday, Oxley turned in his best round of the season, carding a 3-over 74, which included a double-bogey on his final hole, the 425-yard, par-5 No. 4.

"All I did was just slow my tempo down," said Oxley, who will try to maintain that rhythm today in the final round of the 36-hole event. "I took my right arm out of the swing, so that my left was my lead arm. I was working at the [driving] range three days straight to get it right."

Meanwhile, Northern's four-man team of Sam Hoffer, Jeff Kingsbury, Chris Speaker and Josh Yodichkas didn't change a thing, and that's why the SMAC-champion Patriots were in first place after the first day.

Buoyed by Hoffer's 2-over 73, Northern carded a 305, one stroke better than Walter Johnson, and eight ahead of Dulaney. Two-time defending champion Churchill is in a three-way tie for fourth at 316 with Broadneck and Severna Park.

"I told the kids that our goal was to shoot 3-0-something," Patriots Coach Rob Halstead said, "and get there on the second day with the lead or just behind, we'd be happy."

Hoffer is in a fourth place in the individual standings, trailing Walter Johnson's Dennis Kwon, who shot a 2-under 69, two strokes clear of the field.

"I did just about everything right," said Hoffer, who finished 20th last year. "I had a bar to set last year, and I did that. Now, I expected to do a lot better, and I did that, too."

Tournament rules this year dictated that the top half of team and individual scorers advanced to today's final round, with the two-day aggregate score determining the champions.

The individual cut-off score was 81, which meant that 10 Southern Maryland golfers advanced to today's play.

Following Hoffer and Oxley, the best area round belonged to Westlake's Kyle Kirby, who shot a 4-over 75. Kingsbury shot 76, while Yodichkas and La Plata's Brent Martin each carded a 77.

La Plata, last year's state-runner-up, missed the cut, with a team score of 328. The top six teams advanced.

INDIVIDUAL SCORES

Sam Hoffer, Northern , 73; Robert Oxley, Westlake, 74; Kyle Kirby, Westlake, 75; Jeff Kingsbury, Westlake, 76; Brent Martin, La Plata, 77; Josh Yodichkas, Northern, 77; Vincent Hancock, La Plata, 78; Ryan Sapp, Leonardtown, 79; Steve Sapp, Leonardtown, 79; Chris Speaker, Northern, 79; Andrew Wiley, Patuxent, 85; Cody Burch, La Plata, 86; Daniel Barnas, La Plata, 87; Taylor Fuqua, La Plata, 93.

Sam Hoffer helps Northern take a first-day team lead in the state golf tournament. Hoffer scored a 73, one stroke ahead of Westlake's Robert Oxley.