BROUSSARD, La. – Local favorite John Peterson and 42-year-old Danny Ellis matched 6-under-par 65s Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, the first domestic stop on the Web.com Tour’s 2013 schedule.
Peterson, who played college golf at nearby Louisiana State, was among the last to finish in the morning and rolled in 10-foot birdie putt to move into temporary sole possession of the lead.
“Anytime you get to play in front of hometown fans, it’s always nice,” said Peterson, who bought a house in Baton Rouge last year and is commuting the 50 miles each way. “This close to home is a treat. To be in a tournament this close, and a big tournament that means something is really cool.”
Ellis, who has bounced around the mini-tours for the past several years, chalked up seven birdies during his trip around the Le Triomphe Country Club course and grabbed a piece of the lead – the first time in his 83 Web.com Tour starts he’s held or shared a lead after any single round.
“I just tried to keep it simple,” said Ellis, who tied for third here in 2005. “This course plays fast all the time. It’s kind of crucial that you get the ball in the fairway. I wasn’t trying to pick specific holes to try and make birdies. I just putted great today.”
Ellis made a couple of birdies in the 20-foot range, but nothing crazy like Peterson, who rolled one in from 65 feet on the par-3 third hole.
“I think I made the longest putt of my life,” he said. “When I was over that putt, I was thinking that 2013 was the year of the bomb. It was just crazy.”
Chasing the leaders are Ben Martin, rookie Ryan Spears and Australia’s Nick Flanagan – all tied at 5-under 66.
Another 15 players are knotted together with 4-under 67s.
Lurking three shots off the pace are 13 more players – including John Daly, two-time Chitimacha winner Brett Wetterich and Kevin Kisner, winner of the Chile Classic in Santiago two weeks ago.
That makes 33 players piled up within three shots of each other and a total of 47 within four of the lead.
Peterson, 23, made six cuts in nine starts on the PGA Tour in 2012, but his only top-25 finish came at the U.S. Open, where he tied for fourth, just two shots back of winner Webb Simpson. Those earnings were enough to gain him conditional status on the Web.com Tour this year. He has finished tied for 28th, tied for 36th and tied for 16th in his first three starts this year and is No. 37 on the money list.
Clemson University has a defined presence on the first-round leaderboard as Ellis, Ben Martin (66/tied for third) and D.J. Trahan (67/tied for sixth) all played for the Tigers.
Brian Duncan, who also played in college at Clemson, held a share of the lead during the afternoon before faltering with two bogeys and a double bogey in his final six holes. Duncan was 6 under after only seven holes, thanks to eagle-3s at the par-5 first and seventh holes. He ended the day at 2-under 69.
Rookie Ryan Spears (66) missed out on his second career hole-in-one when his ball flew in and then out of the cup at the par-3 11th hole. His 6-iron “never left the flag” and crashed into the back of the hole before bouncing back out and stopping six inches from the cup.
“They said I was robbed,” he said. “My ball landed in the back of the cup, where the plastic sits and shot out that whole side of the hole. They had to come out and fix it. I destroyed the hole. It was weird, but you can’t be too mad with a tap-in birdie.”
Veteran Chris DiMarco fired a 6-over 77, his first on the Web.com Tour since the conclusion of the 1997 season. DiMarco, 44, has been a full-time member of the PGA Tour for the past 15-plus years – his last Web.com tour start came in October of 1997 – a span of 15 years, 5 months and 1 day. He tied for fifth (1993) and tied for 15th (1997) in his only two previous starts at Le Triomphe.
Mike Standly, 48, also returned to the Web.com Tour after a lengthy layoff. His last start was a missed cut at the 2008 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
Standly’s only career win came at the 1993 Freeport-McMoRan Golf Classic. Over the years, he has seven previous starts in this event with his best finish a tie for fifth in 2000. He shot a 77 on Thursday.
Also making his first start on Tour in several years was Trahan, who posted a 4-under 67 and is tied for sixth.
“I didn’t hit it great today but I scored well,” he said. “The wind picked up and I misplayed it a little bit. It was a good day with the putter and I’m excited with the way things are going. Obviously I’d like to hit the ball better tee to green.”
Trahan played one full season on the Web.com Tour in 2004 and won the Miccosukee Championship, beating Nick Watney by two strokes in Miami. He tied for seventh in this event in 2004, his only previous start at Le Triomphe.
“The greens are pretty quick and if the wind blows they won’t be easy to putt in the wind,” he said. “It’s out there but I think 15 or 16 under is a realistic number for the week. Twenty would be great and probably would win the tournament.”
Trahan’s two wins came at the 2006 Southern Farm Bureau Classic (playoff) and the 2008 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He wound up No. 135 on the PGA Tour money list last year.
“It’s been 10 years, but that doesn’t matter. You’re playing where you’re playing,” he added. “Sure, I’d rather be playing at Bay Hill this week, who wouldn’t? There isn’t a guy in this field who wouldn’t want to be at Bay Hill. It’s one of those things where I have to pick myself back up. I fell down off the horse and I’ve got to get back up on it. That’s what I’m working towards now. The reality of it is you’re here, so you need to pick yourself up.”