Baryla leads Prince George's County Open after season-best round of 64

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Canada’s Chris Baryla fired a season-best 7-under 64 Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Melwood Prince George’s County Open. Baryla chalked up nine birdies at the University of Maryland Golf Course and leads the Nationwide Tour event by one stroke over Michael Thompson and England’s Greg Owen.

Steve Wheatcroft, Josh Geary, Nicholas Thompson and South Georgia Classic winner Ted Potter Jr. share fourth place, two back of the leader. Another 10 players are jammed together at 4-under 67, including Jin Park, runner-up in this event a year ago.

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2011 MELWOOD PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY OPEN

The University of Maryland Golf Course was once the home base of Fred Funk, who served as the Terrapins' golf coach for several years.

Baryla, a conditional member on the PGA Tour this year, put together his best round of the year despite a three-putt bogey on the opening hole.

“You can’t make up for a three-putt,” he laughed afterward. “Once you lose them, they’re gone.”

Gone, too, for the native of Calgary are lingering hip problems, which cut short his 2010 season. Baryla needed surgery to fix the wear and tear and is finally getting back to full strength.

“They went in and cleaned it all out and tied all the loose parts back down,” he said. “I feel great, better than the one I was born with on the other side. I just haven’t played well most of the year but the game’s starting to feel better, the body’s healthy.”

Part of his resurgence can also be tied to a recent change in equipment.

“I used the long putter for a long, long time but I’ve got this one that goes about halfway up my forearm,” he said of the same type of putter that Matt Kuchar now uses on the PGA Tour. “It’s better in the wind than a belly putter or a long putter.”

It all contributed to his first serious sub-par round in 2011. The former Texas-El Paso star has missed the cut in all nine starts on the PGA Tour and currently ranks No. 186 in scoring average (74.947). He’s only one for three on the Nationwide Tour, where his only paycheck came with a tie for 44th at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

“This game is frustrating even when you’re healthy, week to week with the highs and lows,” he said. “You can have a really good year in a couple of weeks, as they say. You can definitely get down on yourself but it’s key not to. The guys are good enough. They’re not going to give you a reprieve. If you’re down on yourself, nobody else is going to come over and pick you up.”

Thompson, like Baryla, is a member of the PGA Tour this year but hasn’t had much luck in his rookie season. Runner-up at the 2007 U.S. Amateur, an All-American at Alabama and a Palmer Cup team member hasn’t translated into instant success.

“It reminds me a lot of when I first turned pro because I was a big fish in a little pond in college and then when I got on the Hooters Tour I was a little fish again,” he said. “I’m going through the exact same thing here, I’m a little fish again.”

Thompson has made only five cuts in 11 Tour starts with a tie for 14th at the Puerto Rico Open his best effort to date.

“I’ve just got to fight through that, keep believing in myself, keep working hard and days like today will happen. Hopefully they happen four days in a row. It’s all a process.”

Canada’s Graham DeLaet, making his first start since last October, shot a 1-under-par 70. DeLaet’s rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2010 was cut short by back problems and he underwent surgery in early January to repair a herniated disc.

“I was extremely nervous on the first tee, which I haven’t felt in a long time,” he said. “It was fun. I didn’t play great but I felt like I played well enough to score, I just really didn’t get it done. I’m pretty healthy, now it’s just a matter of knocking the rust off my game more than anything else.”

DeLaet, a 2006 Boise State grad, enjoyed a strong Fall Finish and moved up to No. 100 on the money list. He had three top-10s during the year, including a career-best tie for third at the Shell Houston Open.

First-Round Notes:

--Seong Ho Lee didn’t show up for his morning tee time and was replaced in the field by Adam Bland, who carded a 3-under 68. … James Nitties (79) withdrew after completing the first round. … Guy Boros was disqualified due to an incorrect scorecard. He failed to sign his card after shooting a 1-over 72. 

--Josh Geary (66) and Brad Adamonis (70) each had a pair of eagles. Both eagled a par 5 and a par 4 during their rounds.

--Ted Potter Jr. tied the tournament’s best birdie-eagle streak. Potter was 5 under for 4 holes (B-B-E-B) starting at No. 16 and ending at No. 1.

--A total of 64 players in the field of 156 bettered par. The first-round scoring average for the par-71 layout was 71.194. The first-day scoring average last year was 70.910, which turned out to be the highest of the week.

--Former Georgia All-American Brendon Todd had an interesting 3-under 68. Todd had eight birdies, five bogeys and five pars during his round, and is tied for 18th place.

--Stephen Gangluff, a resident of Charlottesville, Va., had the only bogey-free round of the day. Gangluff managed only one birdie to go along with 17 pars and posted a 1-under 70.

--Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton closed with a flourish. Compton was 4 over through 15 holes but turned the tables with a birdie-eagle-birdie finish on the front nine to get to 2 under par. He is tied for 27th place.