Nearly five hours after a pair of former U.S. Amateur champions had grabbed the early clubhouse lead, B.J. Staten fired a 9-under-par 63 to give him a one-stroke advantage over Bubba Dickerson and Danny Lee after the opening round of the Nationwide Tour’s 20th annual WNB Golf Classic on Thursday.
Dickerson and Lee had set the pace in near-perfect scoring conditions in the morning, posting 8-under-par 64s. Staten wasted little time in pursuit of the pair in the afternoon. He began birdie-eagle on his way to a tournament record-tying front-nine total of 6-under-par 30.
He got to 10 under through 14 holes, but saw his momentum slow when he bogeyed No. 15, missing a 10-inch putt. He closed with three straight pars to shoot his 63. It was one shy of the tournament scoring record, but it did match the best opening-round score in the event at the Midland Country Club by Brian Guetz in 2007.
“Overall, it was a really wonderful day today,” Staten said. I swung it well, drove it well and finally got some putts to go in. It was a lot of fun.”
Did he think about going really low when he got to 10-under after No. 14?
“I think you have to. You know tomorrow morning the wind is probably going to blow. We have a cold front coming through and when that wind kicks up this golf course really shows its teeth. You really have to think about what you’re hitting off the tee and you have to hit the right shot.”
The Austin, Texas, resident and University of Houston product is playing in this event for the fifth time and his best finish is a tie for fifth in 2007.
Thursday’s effort also had to offer encouragement for Dickerson and Lee, both of whom have struggled in recent weeks. Dickerson, the 2001 U.S. Amateur champion, made his first cut at last week’s Soboba Golf Classic since mid-July, finishing tied for 31st in the Southern California event, while Lee has made just one cut in his previous six starts
“Yeah, today was a good day for me,” Dickerson said. It’s been a struggle the past few weeks and I finally made a cut last week and I played really solid. I’ve been hitting the ball well but have struggled with my putter and I’ve focused on that.”
The only blemish in his round came at No. 10 when he three putted. However, from that point on he played the final eight holes in 5 under par and capped his day with a tap-in birdie at No. 18.
“This is a good time of year to start playing well. I’m still right there (44th on Nationwide Tour money list) so I just want to have a good finish to the year.” Dickerson added. “I had a lesson last week from a guy in San Diego that I had met with earlier in the year and it helped. We’re two for two in him getting me straight. It was just something I was doing in my swing and it took him about five minutes to figure out what was wrong and it totally changed how I’m hitting my golf shots.”
Like Dickerson, Lee’s round included just one bogey, that coming at No. 16 when he hit his 7-iron long on the par-3 hole and then three-putted.
The 2008 U.S. Amateur champion has been plagued recently by a balky left wrist but he showed no effects of the injury on Thursday. His round included seven birdies and an eagle.
“I putted really well today,” Lee said. “I just want to make things more consistent so I’m trying out the belly putter this week and I think its working pretty good. On No. 16 I just hit it too far and I was in the back of the green and the pin was in the front left. I guess I have to practice more with the long putts than the short ones. I didn’t have the feel for the long putts with the belly putter and I left it way short on that hole.”
News and Notes: This marks the first time B.J. Staten has held sole possession of the lead in the opening round of a Nationwide Tour event. He shared the first-round lead at the 2007 LaSalle Bank Open in the Chicago area before eventually finishing second. … Craig Barlow and Brian Bateman withdrew during their rounds due to wrist injuries, while Brett Wetterich, Blake Parks and Dawie van der Walt withdrew after their rounds. … Staten matched the tournament front-nine scoring record when he posted a 6-under-par 30, the 16th player to do so. … Brian Vranesh ran his streak of consecutive holes without a three-putt to 317 on Thursday. … Tyler Sheppard, who attended Midland Lee High School before competing at Midland College and later Abilene Christian College, aced No. 8 on Thursday with a 4-iron from 222 yards. It was the seventh ace in tournament history. … Luke List and Edward Loar each had a pair of eagles in the opening round. … Jason Kokrak had the day’s longest measured drive, a 369-yarder on No. 12. He also had a 351-yarder on No. 2. … Guy Boros hit all 14 fairways.