EVANSVILLE, Ind. -- Texas native Omar Uresti is used to the heat, and even though Thursday’s opener of the inaugural United Leasing Championship set a record for the hottest day in June ever recorded in Evansville, the 43-year-old barely broke a sweat while taking the first-round lead at Victoria National Golf Club.
Uresti, born and raised in Austin, chalked up seven birdies en route to a bogey-free, 7-under 65 and a two-stroke lead in the first event on the newly renamed Web.com Tour. The former Longhorn closed with a pair of birdies to move in front early in the day, well before temperatures reached triple digits.
Another Texan, Martin Piller of Dallas, chalked up birdies on his first three holes and carded a 5-under 67 to share second place with two-time U.S. Open Champion Lee Janzen and Arkansas resident David Lingmerth.
Australia’s Alistair Presnell and Tag Ridings, another Razorback who also lives in the greater Dallas area, are next on the list at 4-under 68.
As the day progressed and the oppressive heat joined forces with a long and difficult layout, scores went up as players, caddies, volunteers and fans went down.
“Fortunately, it didn’t really get hot until the last four or five holes,” said Uresti, who surprised himself after missing the at last week’s Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open. “No, I wasn’t expecting it. I’m thinking even par, 1 or 2 under is a great round on this golf course.”
Uresti made it even better because he did what he does best – drive the ball in the fairway. The Texas-ex ranks No. 13 in driving accuracy this year and hit 13 of 14 fairways Thursday.
“It was difficult out there. You have to hit the ball straight and by no means it is an easy golf course,” said Uresti. “It was also nice to make some putts. To get around in 7 under on this course, I’m really happy. It’s nice to be one of those guys that puts that number up.”
It turned out nobody would match his efforts. South Carolina’s Charles Warren got it to 6 under after 15 holes, but stumbled with three straight bogeys and settled for a 3-under 69 that has him tied for seventh place with eight others.
“I play in this every day back home,” said Piller, who graduated from Texas A&M. “It’s like this every day so I don’t think about it.”
With his mind focused on golf and not the rising temperatures, Piller put together one of his better days.
“This is one of the better ball-striking rounds I’ve ever had,” he said. “Ball striking was great and this is a ball-striking course. You’ve got to hit it good. You can’t fake it around here. This is a course that demands a lot of your game off the tee and into the greens.”
Janzen, 47, followed the strategy of many in the field and concentrated on accuracy.
“I played the course very conservatively off the tee,” said Janzen after hitting 12 of 14 fairways. “There were times I could have hit more club off the tee but I opted to hit less club to make sure I hit the fairway and was content to hit longer clubs into the greens.”
Janzen missed only three greens as well as he battled the heat of the afternoon.
“We have very humid days in Florida where you’re just soaked,” said the Orlando resident. “But it’s hot. It’s hot enough that it’s a factor. It will affect you physically, which could affect your performance and your ability to think. I really tried not to waste any energy out there.”
--Thursday’s high temperature of 106 degrees set a record for the hottest day in the month June ever for Evansville. The previous high was 104 degrees set back in 1954. It also broke the record for the hottest June 28th ever in Evansville. The previous high for this date was 102 degrees in 1936.
--This is only the second time in Omar Uresti’s career that he has held the outright lead after the first round. This is Uresti’s 540th overall start – 191 on the Web.com Tour (includes this week) starts and 348 PGA Tour starts. Uresti shot a 7-under 64 at the 1993 Miami Valley Open and led by one stroke. He went on to finish tied for third that week.
--Uresti’s 65 matches his second-lowest opening round score of his career. He shot a 64 (7 under) in the first round of the 1993 Miami Valley Open at Heatherwoode GC near Dayton, Ohio. Uresti has opened with 65’s five times on the Web.com Tour and six times on the PGA Tour.
--Lefty Tim Wilkinson of New Zealand registered seven birdies and an eagle but managed only a 1-under 71. Wilkinson’s scorecard also included three double bogeys and two bogeys.
--Charles Warren challenged for the lead late in his round and was 6-under after 15 holes but closed with three consecutive bogeys for a round of 69.
--Casey Wittenberg, No. 2 on the money list after winning the Wichita Open last week, shot a 1-over 73 and is T69.
--Steve LeBrun withdrew within minutes of his 7:45 a.m. starting time because of nagging back problems. He was replaced in the field by Marc Turnesa (77).
--Ben Briscoe was disqualified during the round for breach of Rule 14-3. While waiting to hit a shot on the 15th hole, Briscoe put an alignment rod down on the ground. After completing play on No.18, an official was requested at the scoring area. Following a discussion, it was determined Briscoe had used “unusual equipment during stipulated play” and the penalty for the rules violation is disqualification.
--Russell Henley (82), Alex Aragon (83) and Zack Miller (86) all withdrew after completing their opening round. Billy Horschel (sinus) and John Chin (illness) all withdrew during their opening round Thursday.
--Joseph Bramlett and Aron Price were 14 of 14 in fairways hit Thursday. Michael Connell, Aaron Goldberg, Fabian Gomez, Peter Lonard, Alistair Presnell and Omar Uresti all hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Lee Janzen, Luke List and Joseph Juszczyk each birdied all four par-5s.
--Saturday and Sunday tee times will run from approximately 7:30-9:30 a.m. with play in threesomes off the 1st and 10th tees. Play is expected to be completed both days shortly before 3:00 p.m.