Australian James Nitties and Georgia’s Scott Parel posted 7-under-par 65s Thursday to share the first-round at the inaugural Chile Classic on the Nationwide Tour.
Nitties was bogey-free during his morning trip around the Prince of Wales Country Club, while Parel offset a bogey with an eagle during the afternoon.
Rookie Hudson Swafford, Alex Prugh, Dawie van der Walt and Ryan Hietala all carded 6-under 66s and are tied for third.
Six players are knotted another shot back, including Julian Etulain of Argentina, veteran Carlos Franco of Paraguay and Camilo Benedetti of Colombia.
Santiago teenager Juan Cerda, winner of the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship, held his own against the big boys with a 1-under 71.
“It’s quite tight out there. You miss a shot a little bit and you’re in the middle of a massive sprout tree,” said Nitties, winner of last year’s Midwest Classic in Kansas City. “All you have to do is hit the fairways out here. It’s not the longest golf course. As long as you get the ball in the fairway, you’ve got a chance to do something special.”
Nittes had things rolling early, turning the front nine in 5-under 31 before adding his sixth birdie at No. 12.
“I holed a lot of nice 12-footers and when I hit it inside of 10 feet I made it,” he said. “I hit a lot of nice shots and it could have easily been 8 or 9 under, but then too it also could have been 4 or 5.”
Parel had it to 6 under through 10 holes, but stalled out on the front nine to close the day.
“I got a lot of good breaks today,” he said. “I hit the ball really well but a couple times when I did miss, I got pretty lucky and that happened a couple of times but that has to happen sometimes to play a really good round of golf.”
Swafford was short on luck during his front nine to begin the round. The former Bulldog sailed a pitching wedge over the green at the par-4 eighth hole and stumbled with a double bogey to drop to 2 over on the day.
“I got over it quick,” he said of his 6. “I knew it was possible to make a lot of birdies. The greens are good enough, the golf course is good enough. You just have to give yourself lots of chances and I did that.”
He also took advantage of the back-nine par 5s, rolling in eagle putts of 15 and five feet for a turnaround 29.
“I played it a little more aggressive today and I hit only five or six drivers,” he said. “I’m driving the ball really good. There are so many small greens and small targets, I’d rather have a wedge than an 8-iron.”
--A total of 81 players broke par in the opening round, that’s more than the combined total in the first two events on the Nationwide Tour schedule. A total off 44 players broke par the first day at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open and only 18 managed to better par in the first round of last week’s Panama Claro Championship.
--Hudson Swafford had a pair of eagles on the back nine par 5s (Nos. 14 and 18).
--Dawie van der Walt had a pair of eagles, on the par-5 ninth and par-4 12th holes.
--Santiago, Chile, is not the southernmost city the Nationwide Tour has played in. Santiago’s latitude is 33 degrees south, while Melbourne, Australia, is 37 degrees south, Christchurch, New Zealand, is 43 degrees south and Queenstown, New Zealand, is 45 degrees south.
--The Nationwide Tour will take a week before beginning its domestic schedule. The Tour’s next stop will be in Lafayette, La., for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Country Club March 19-25.