Nebraska’s Steve Friesen fired a career-low, 10-under 62 Thursday and grabbed the first-round lead at the Price Cutter Charity Championship at Highland Springs Country Club. Friesen’s bogey-free effort put him two shots ahead of Australian Gavin Coles and three in front over Indiana’s Craig Bowden.
Josh Broadaway, Scott Gardiner, Brad Adamonis, Tyrone Van Aswegen and rookie Zack Sucher share fourth place with 6-under 66s at Highland Springs Country Club, annually one of the more forgiving courses on the Nationwide Tour schedule.
“It’s kind of funny,” said Friesen, 34. “Last week was my first week and off a sponsor exemption I made the cut. I got reshuffled into this event but had no idea. One of my friends called me after looking on the Internet to tell me I was in this tournament.”
Friesen had been playing in a pro-am Monday in Omaha after tying for 49th at the Cox Classic and quickly headed home to Lincoln to pack and then drive seven hours to reach Springfield.
“I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “I didn’t get in until around midnight.”
The former Husker wasn’t hampered by a lack of practice and came out of the gate firing Thursday morning. A birdie at No. 1 was followed by an eagle at No. 3, when his 8-iron from the left rough eventually found the cup.
“That’s a pretty good break right there,” he said. “I hit it closer last week but I putted the ball great today.”
Friesen, who is on a minor medical exemption this year after hip problems in 2010, had no trouble the rest of the way. He missed only two greens en route to his first lead on Tour since the 2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship.
He closed his day with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 18th to better his career best of 64, which was posted in the second round last week.
“I had that putt to shoot 61 and my best round ever and I don’t even get it to the hole,” he said of his 20-footer for eagle that stopped four feet short of the cup. “It’s kind of disappointing.”
Meantime, Coles was all smiles after an 8-under round that saw him hit 13 of 14 fairways and 16 greens. Not bad for a guy who had missed 12 straight cuts prior to last week’s tie for 61st in Omaha.
“Where did that come from?,” he joked with writers. “I finally got a driver last week that goes in the fairway and I know what shape it’s going.”
Coles has been struggling since a tie for sixth at the season-opening Panama Claro Championship, but got his equipment manufacturer to locate a shaft that had been in a previous club.
“Twelve missed cuts in a row and I was ready to try anything in the driver,” he said. “It was getting beyond frustrating. I asked for a shaft that I had in my old driver that I had cracked the head in. Yes, I cracked the head in a driver! I might be the shortest hitter on Tour but I cracked a head in a driver.”
The new one has him shaping the ball with a slight draw and is more in tune with his choice of direction.
“A little right to left, not a lot, just a little draw but I can hit it the other way if I need to,” he said. “With other drivers I think I lost my whole swing because the ball was going right and I was fighting it.”
Texan J. J. Killeen fired a 2-over 74, ending his streak of 16 consecutive rounds under par. Killeen, winner of the Utah Championship and the Cox Classic the last two weeks, had only one birdie during his round.
“I hit a lot of good shots today. It was definitely better than my score indicates,” he said. “I’m going to have to shoot really low tomorrow just to make the cut. Hopefully I can start a new streak tomorrow.”
Killeen is No. 2 on the money list and is attempting to become the first player in Nationwide Tour history to win three consecutive weeks on the schedule. Jason Gore was a winner in three consecutive starts in 2007, but those included a couple of weeks off in between.
--Brenden Pappas withdrew during the round because of back problems. Tom Scherrer withdrew after completing the first round.
--The top four players listed on the leaderboard -- Steve Friesen, Gavin Coles, Craig Bowden and Josh Broadaway -- did not have a bogey among them.
--Kyle Thompson (68) hit all 18 greens in regulation. Ron Whittaker (70), Chris Nallen (72) and Gavin Coles (64) each hit 13 of 14 fairways. Todd Fischer (68) had only 22 putts after hitting only nine greens in regulation.
--Steve Friesen’s 10-under 62 is four shots better than his previous best first-round score of 66, which he has done twice. This is the first time that Friesen has held the first-round on the Nationwide Tour. His previous best standing after the opening 18 holes was a tie for 13th, which he had done twice.
--The only other time that Steve Friesen has held the lead after any single round on Tour came after 54 holes at the 2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship in Christchurch. Friesen went on to finish tied for seventh, which remains his career-best finish. His 62 is his career-best score on the Nationwide Tour. His previous best was a 64 (7-under) in the second round of last week’s Cox Classic in Omaha.
--Friesen’s 7-under 29 matches the lowest front-nine score in tournament history. Joe Ogilvie carded a 29 in the second round in 2003 and Nick Flanagan did it in the third round in 2006. His Friesen’s 62 is one shot off the best first-round score in tournament history. John Connelly shot an 11-under 61 back in 1995.
--Tyrone Van Aswegen registered five consecutive birdies starting at No. 8. The South African was 7 under par but hit his second shot in the water at No. 18 at made bogey to finish with a 6-under 66.
--Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee bogeyed his third hole of the day, ending a bogey-free streak that stretched 71 holes. Lee also bogeyed his third hole at last week’s Cox Classic but did not make another the rest of the way. Lee went on to tie for second place at 21 under par, one shot back of winner J.J. Killeen.