Kyle Reifers of Wake Forest, Justin Peters and England’s Matthew Richardson all posted 6-under-par 65s Thursday and share the first-round lead at the Rex Hospital Open on the Nationwide Tour.
Andy Bare, a UNC-Greensboro grad, heads up a list of five players sharing fourth place at 5-under 66. J.J. Killeen, fifth at last week’s Melwood Prince George’s County Open, Martin Flores, Gary Christian and Michael Sims are also one back at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
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Much of the attention was on the sweltering heat and suffocating humidity. The heat index reached 99 degrees in the afternoon with only a slight breeze to keep the golfers cool.
“It’s going to be hot for the next three months,” said Reifers. “We just have to get ready for it.”
Reifers got off to a sizzling start with a birdie-eagle-birdie run on holes 2-4. His eagle was a hole out from 50 yards on the 375-yard par 4. His second shot on the par-5 fourth stopped 10 feet from the cup, but his putt for back-to-back eagles lipped out and he settled for birdie.
“I feel my game’s been there the last couple of weeks. I just haven’t gotten the results,” said Reifers, who has missed six straight cuts since a tie for sixth at the season-opening Panama Claro Championship. “This year I went back to playing some old equipment and playing the clubs I want to play. I’m feeling like I’ve gotten back to just playing golf and it’s taken a while. I worked last year on some technical things and that’s not really me. I’m getting back and getting excited again. I’ve had glimpses and it’s a matter of it all coming together.”
Things are also coming together for Richardson, who posted one of two bogey-free rounds Thursday. The 26-year-old has also made an equipment change and is just beginning to settle into the new sticks.
“I’m just tweaking away. I was working on the wedges yesterday trying to get things right,” he said. “I need to ‘tournament’ my bag rather than do it on the range or at home practicing. I find it easier to tweak my stuff once I get into the zone and start playing.”
Peters, on the other hand, is just happy to be playing, period. The 34-year-old Boston native has been stuck on hold for the past couple of months, a victim of eligibility. Despite finishing the 2010 season with nine consecutive cuts made, he wound up No. 82 on the money list and well down the priority list this year. He has made two starts and missed both cuts, the last coming two months ago.
“It was nice to actually be in the tournament on Tuesday,” said Peters, who has been biding his time playing mini-tour events.
Peters, like Richardson, and many others, are subject to the Nationwide Tour’s periodic re-shuffle, which comes again after next week’s Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
“I feel like I’m in the same position now where I need a big week to get back to where I can start making a schedule again,” he said. “I know that out on this tour you’re one week away from setting up your year.”
Carter Jenkins, who recently completed his sophomore year at Leesville Road High School, became the third-youngest to play in a Nationwide Tour event. Jenkins earned a berth in the field when he won the Junior Invitational on Sunday at TPC Wakefield Plantation, which is about 20 minutes from his school. He was 6 over through his first eight holes but settled down to shoot a 5-over 76, which included three consecutive birdies on his back nine.
Among those Jenkins beat to get into this week’s event was teammate Grayson Murray, who won the Junior Invitational in 2010 and went on to become the second-youngest to make the cut in tour history. Murray is a rising senior at Leesville Road and will attend Wake Forest on a golf scholarship. Jenkins has made a verbal commitment to UNC-Greensboro.
--Bryan DeCorso was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. DeCorso signed for a 5 on his opening hole but made a double-bogey 6.
--Defending champion John Riegger shot a 2-over 73. Ty Tryon, who was born at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, carded a 4-over 75.
--Steve Wheatcroft, who set several Nationwide Tour scoring records while blitzing the field at last week’s Melwood Prince George’s County Open at the University of Maryland, struggled in his opening round and posted a 5-over 76. Wheatcroft set all-time records for low 72-hole total (255), largest winning margin (12 strokes), largest 54-hole lead (8 strokes) and largest 36-hole lead (7 strokes) while dusting the field a week ago.
--Garth Mulroy, winner of the BMW Charity Pro-Am and a product of North Carolina State, triple-bogeyed his fourth hole of the day and was 4 over after five. He was bogey-free the rest of the way and finished at 2-over 73.
--Scoring average for the opening round was 71.516 (+.516). A total of 58 players in the field broke par, while another 30 players were at even-par 71.