In his comfort zone, Demsey takes first-round lead at Chattanooga Classic

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PGA.com

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There’s something to be said for being comfortable on certain golf courses. Todd Demsey certainly has found a comfort zone at the Black Creek Club. The 38-year-old carded a pair of eagles there Thursday en route to a 10-under par 62 and the first-round lead at Nationwide Tour’s Chattanooga Classic.

Demsey shot an 8-under 64 in the opening round here last year but stumbled on the weekend and tied for 25th.

“I love Seth Raynor designs and this being a replica-type course, I just enjoy playing it,” said Demsey, who also posted a 9-under 63 here back in 2004. “I don’t know what it is, I just feel really comfortable.”

Demsey staked himself to a two-stroke lead over Joe Affrunti, William McGirt and Ted Potter Jr.

Brad Adamonis, David Branshaw, Jeff Klauk and Luke List, who attended high school in the area, share fifth place after posting 6-under 66s. Gary Woodland and sponsor exemption Michael Thompson, runner-up at the 2007 U.S. Amateur, also carded 66s.

Demsey missed only a couple of fairways and a trio of greens while cruising to the lead, courtesy of some good breaks.

“Every bounce that could have gone one way or the other went the right way, which is nice because they’ve been going the other way,” he said.

Demsey’s biggest break was just making it into the field. A former college teammate of Phil Mickelson at Arizona State, Demsey was buried 20 deep on the alternate list late last week but gradually moved up as more and more withdrawals came in.

“Obviously I need to do something great,” said Demsey, who has made only six of 13 cuts this year and is No. 165 on the money list with only a couple events remaining on the schedule. “It’s been a tough year. I really haven’t played all that bad but I haven’t gotten in a lot of tournaments and the putts haven’t gone in. I’m just happy to be in contention this week and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Demsey had it going after rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt on his 12th hole and then followed that up with a 35-footer for eagle on the next hole, putting him at 8-under through 13 holes.

“I sort of thought about it (shooting 59) when I eagled four, but I struggled with the math and couldn’t figure out what I had to do,” he admitted. “So I let that go.”

McGirt, a 31-year-old rookie from South Carolina, is also in a bit of a comfort zone this week, having won the Southern Conference individual title for Wofford College at nearby Chattanooga Golf and Country Club in 2001.

“Anytime you go back to a place where you’ve won, it’s going to bring back fond memories, whether it’s that course or that city,” he said. “I’ve spent a good bit of time here because I used to come in the summers and spend a week with my college roommate and his family.”

McGirt made one bogey when he three-putted and another when he missed a green, but otherwise was nearly perfect in chalking up a day’s best 10 birdies.

“I felt like I hit it pretty well, drove it really well and hit it where I was looking all day, and I made some putts,” he said. “It was nice to finally make some instead of burning edges.”

McGirt is No. 29 on the money list and teeing it up for the seventh consecutive week.

“There are four weeks left in the season counting this week, mentally and physically I’m pretty tired,” he said. “I’m at a point now where I don’t feel I can take a week off. As bad as I want to, I feel like I need to play. I’ve got from November 1st until the first tournament next year to take time and rest.”

First-Round Notes: Glen Day, Tom Scherrer and Nate Smith withdrew. Smith won the WNB Golf Classic two weeks ago and tied for fifth at last week’s Soboba Golf Classic. … Trevor Murphy was disqualified after the round for signing an incorrect scorecard. … Todd Demsey’s 62 is one shot off the best opening round in tournament history. Webb Simpson posted an 11-under 61 to start things off in 2008. … Arjun Atwal owns the Black Creek Club course record with a 12-under 60, which came in the second round in 2008.

Ted Potter, Jr. matched his best score of the year with his 64 today. He also carded a 64 in the opening round of the BMW Charity Pro-Am in May, his first start of the season. He has made two cuts in nine starts and is No. 185 on the money list. … Jeff Klauk, in his second season on the PGA Tour, is making his first start since The Players Championship in May. Klauk underwent back and ankle surgery and will make three starts as part of a rehab process. He was perfect today, hitting all 18 greens in regulation and finished with a 6-under 66.

Luke List, who attended the Baylor School (high school) in Chattanooga, also hit all 18 greens in regulation while also shooting a 66. The girl’s golf team at List’s alma mater recently captured its 16th consecutive state title, which ties a national record for most consecutive high school state golf championships. … Sponsor exemption Michael Thompson (University of Alabama, 2008) had the fifth ace in tournament history today with his hole-in-one at the par-3 seventh hole. The hole measured 241 yards and Thompson used a 17-degree hybrid. It’s the first ace at that hole in the tournament’s seven-plus years at Black Creek Club. Thompson was the runner-up to Nationwide Tour member Colt Knost at the 2007 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.