For several years, Josh Broadaway was simply known as the guy who plays golf cross-handed. A red-hot summer run has turned the 33-year-old Georgian from novelty to consistent contender.
Broadaway fired a 7-under 64 Thursday afternoon and grabbed the clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed first round of the Nationwide Tour’s Mylan Classic. His eight-birdie effort at the Southpointe Golf Club in suburban Pittsburgh has him two strokes in front of rookie Chris Epperson, who is making only his third start of the year.
Morning thunderstorms halted play for 2:20 starting at 9:00 a.m. and the lengthy delay ultimately prevented 57 players from completing the opening round.
Rookie Aaron Goldberg is at 5 under through 13 holes and has the best chance to overtake Broadaway on the leaderboard Friday morning when play resumes.
Defending champion Kevin Kisner heads a list of five players in at 4-under 67. Kisner is joined by Craig Bowden, Jay Williamson, Billy Hurley and Australian Nick Flanagan, who won the 2003 U.S. Amateur at nearby Oakmont Country Club.
Texan Brad Elder is also at 4 under with two holes remaining.
Much of the attention this week is on headliner John Daly and local favorites Rocco Mediate and Steve Wheatcroft, but Broadaway’s play, much like his current wardrobe, has heads turning.
Broadaway tied for eighth at last week’s News Sentinel Open and caught a ride from Knoxville on Daly’s bus. During the journey, Daly convinced Broadaway to don some not-so-conservative pants from his Loudmouth Golf collection.
“I’m not sure I have enough solid shirts to wear this week,” laughed Broadaway, wearing red-and-white checkered pants. “I might have to go over to his bus and wash some clothes.”
Clothing aside, Broadway’s no-fear approach has him playing perhaps the best golf of his career. He has four top-10 finishes in his last six starts and he has pushed his way to No. 13 on the money list with eight events left on the schedule. The top 25 money winners at the end of the year will earn PGA Tour cards for the 2012 season.
“It wasn’t really easy,” said Broadaway of his day. “I was hitting some loose shots and getting some good breaks.”
The breaks helped but Broadaway’s effort on the greens has been the key to his resurgence.
“Anytime you’re making putts, it takes away the pressure off the rest of your game. You don’t feel like you have to hit it close all the time,” he said. “You can be aggressively conservative where you hit it out there 25 feet because you know you may make one.”
A 30-footer at No. 7 for par was the key to the day and the round.
“I was rolling it really good on the putting green today,” he said. “It felt really good in my hands early and I got it going. The way my confidence has been lately, as soon as I started seeing a few go in, it was just off to the races.”
Epperson, a late finisher from the morning wave, stepped into the lead with a pair of birdies on his final two holes.
“I’m not real worried about the lead or anything,” said the 28-year-old from South Carolina. “I’m just worried about being here and making the cut. I’m just happy to be here.”
Epperson has been waiting most of the year just to get into events. His eligibility ranking coming out of Q-School put him near the bottom of the list and kept him from making his first start of the year until the Mexico Open in June.
There’s a website we look at and to see my number being 20 or 30 out, it’s tough,” he said. “I looked last Friday and I think I was 179 on the list for 156 guys.”
Wholesale withdrawls moved Epperson quickly up the list and he finally got the call on Tuesday night that he was in.
“I haven’t played a practice round in these events yet,” he said. “I’ve been playing blind. I guess it worked out today. I’m just glad to get a start.
--First-round play was suspended from 9:00-11:20 a.m. due to lightning and thunderstorms. Play was halted by darkness at 7:55 p.m. A total of 57 players did not complete the first round. Those players will return to the course and resume the round at 7:30 a.m. Friday. The start of the second round will be 30 minutes later than the posted tee times, so Round 2 will begin at 7:50 a.m.
--Players will be adjusting to a tougher course this week after spending the last several weeks chasing birdies. The average winning score for the past five Tour events has been 22.6 strokes under par. Last year’s winning score at this tournament was only 13-under 271.
--Rookie Chris Epperson is making only his third career start on Tour. The 28-year-old from Hilton Head Island missed the cut at the Mexico Open in June and tied for 57th at the Price Cutter Charity Championship.
--Local favorite Rocco Mediate, making his second career start on the Nationwide Tour, posted a 2-over 73 that included four bogeys and a double bogey. Mediate posted scores of 67-69-78-71—285 (+1) last year and tied for 32nd in his Tour debut.
--John Daly birdie Nos. 16 and 17 and finished with a 2-under 69. He is currently tied for 24th.
--Brett Swedberg withdrew during the opening round due to an ankle injury. Phil Tataurangi withdrew during the round due to an elbow injury. Brian Smock (77) withdrew after the round. Edward Loar (68) withdrew after the round. Loar’s wife, Melaney, went into labor today and he flew home to Dallas.