GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Darron Stiles took advantage of soft conditions, firing an 8-under-par 64 Thursday to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the BMW Charity Pro-Am. This unique Nationwide Tour event features 168 professionals, plus amateurs and celebrities in a better-ball format hosted by three different golf courses in Greenville and Spartanburg, S.C.
Stiles took advantage of overnight rain at Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg, posting a round that included eight birdies and no bogeys. D.J. Brigman and Jim Herman, who played the same course as Stiles, both find themselves one stroke back after firing bogey-free 65s.
Five players are two strokes off the pace, Derek Fathauer, Robert Streb, Jim Renner, Tim Wilkinson and former Clemson Tiger Sam Saunders. All the leaders were at Carolina Country club except Renner and Wilkinson, who played the Thornblade Club in Greenville, the host course in the rotation and site of Sunday’s final round. The lowest round recorded on Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer course was a 67 by Aaron Watkins, Reid Edstrom and Aaron Goldberg.
Stiles, a Florida native who now lives in Pinehurst, N.C., broke down the reasons why he was able to have success in the first round.
“The extra moisture on the greens meant you could basically fire at every pin and not have to worry about it running away from you,” the four-time Nationwide Tour winner explained. “But the key today was my longest birdie was from 20 feet. I hit it really good today with my irons and I made most of the putts that I had.”
Everything didn’t come easy for Stiles -- in fact on the first two holes, he had to scramble and make a pair of 8-foot par putts. Stiles believed those two putts played an important role in giving him confidence on the greens.
“They were huge, just because the greens are rolling so well,” said Stiles. “The greens are at a good making speed. And to make those two putts on the first two holes was key.”
After those par saves, Stiles got hot carding five birdies in his next seven holes. He added two more birdies before making another unlikely one at the long par-3 17th.
“I had 222 yards,” said Stiles, who also shot 65 at Carolina CC in last year’s first round. “I just hit a 3-iron hybrid. That was one of my longest birdie putts of the day, right at 20 feet. And I finally got one of those to the hole. It felt good to get that one there.”
With three rounds to go, Stiles knows he must focus on his ball striking to continue his good play.
“Like I said ball striking is the key,” the leader said. “The more divots I can take the more consistent my distance control is going to be.”
Play resumes Friday at Thornblade Club, Carolina Country Club and Greenville Country Club, with the low 14 celebrity/amateur teams playing their final round at Thornblade.
--Darron Stiles and Steven Alker had bogey-free rounds in the same pairing.
Past champions Charles Warren (2002), Nick Flanagan (2007) and Michael Sim (2009) are in the field this week, as are 10 former Clemson players: Brent Delahoussaye, Brian Duncan, Elliot Gealy, Matt Hendrix, Kevin Johnson, Ben Martin, David May, Sam Saunders, Charles Warren and Frank Wrenn IV.
--Aaron Watkins, Reid Edstrom and Aaron Goldberg posted the best score of the day (5-under 67) at the Chanticleer Course at Greenville CC, which is making its tournament debut this week as a host course. Watkins raved about Chanticleer following his round: "I wouldn't change anything about the golf course. I wouldn't touch the greens. I wouldn't touch the rough. It's got enough length. It's just a flat out good golf course."
--Despite being the shortest of the three courses in the rotation at 6,864 yards, Chanticleer proved to be the toughest on Day 1. The field scoring average was 72.71 (.71 over par) vs. 70.07 (.93 under par) at Thornblade Club and 70.41 (1.59 under par) at Carolina CC.
--Only three of the top 20 scores were recorded at Chanticleer. Of the bottom 26 scores, 15 were shot at Chanticleer.
--Celebrating his 38th birthday, Jason Gore had a rough go of it shooting 75 at Chanticleer. He made a triple-bogey 8 (No. 3) and a double-bogey 6 (No. 9) to turn in 39, but finished on a positive note birdieing Nos. 17 and 18.
--Charles Warren owns the GCC/Chanticleer course record. He shot 60 last October. Playing with him was fellow Clemson Tiger Brent Delahoussaye, whose record (62) Warren broke that day. Ironically, Warren and Delahoussaye are paired together the first three rounds this week. They play Chanticleer on Saturday.