PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Trent Rommann of Wichita, Kan., finished the bulk of his round in ideal conditions before wind gusts of up 15 mph arrived at PGA Golf Club on Thursday. His opening-round 5-under-par 67 on the Wanamaker Course was good for a one-stroke lead in the 37th National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship presented by COBRA PUMA GOLF.
A group of five players share second after shooting 68 – Dennis Downs of Surprise, Ariz.; Adam Gary of Bowling Green, Ky.; Jeff Schmid of Columbia, Mo.; Jeff Seavey of Homosassa, Fla.; and Shawn Warren of Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
The 126-player field for the National Championship features three of the top-4 finishers from last year's Championship as well as 123 players who advanced through their PGA Section Championships.
The 72-hole National Championship runs through Sunday.
Rommann, PGA assistant professional at Crestview Country Club in Wichita, Kan., began play on the back nine and birdied his opening hole, the par-4 10th. He bogeyed the par-4 12th, but bounced back with birdies on three of his next four holes.
“I got started quickly and played really well all day,” said Rommann. “I made a little mistake on 12, but got right back on track.”
Rommann, 30, birdied three of the four par 5s and closed his round with birdies on three of the final four holes.
“I was able to make birdies on the holes you can take advantage of here and it also helped that I putted well,” said Rommann. “And if you want to keep up with the guys out here, you have to go low.”
With the wind picking up near the end of his round, Rommann, who will go off in the afternoon wave in the second round, knows he may face a different golf course on Friday.
"Tomorrow afternoon it’s going to be a battle because I’m sure it’s going to be windy," said Rommann. "But I’m going to practice hard this afternoon and make sure I’m ready."
Seavey, PGA assistant professional at Samoset Resort Golf Club in Rockport, Maine, played a nearly flawless opening round, offsetting a bogey on his final hole of the day, the par-4 18th, with three birdies and an eagle.
“I hit the ball incredibly straight today and that gave me a chance to make a lot of birdies,” said Seavey. “I only missed one fairway and hit 15 greens. I made this round seem easier than it really was.”
Two-time National Champion Frank Bensel of Purchase, N.Y., opened with a 69 and is in a tie for seventh.
Ashley Grier of Hagerstown, Md., the first female to compete in the Championship since 2011, opened with a 71 and is tied for 21st.
The shot of the day, however, came from Logan Watts of Louisville, Ky. The 24-year-old PGA apprentice at Louisville (Ky.) Country Club aced the 214-yard par-3 17th, claiming a $25,000 National Car Rental Hole-In-One Challenge Grand Prize.
Following the first 36 holes of play on Friday, the field for the final two rounds will be trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties.
At stake is a berth in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship, June 22-25, 2014, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at The Dunes Club and the Grande Dunes Resort Course.
The winner of the 2013 PGA Assistant Championship will collect $9,000 of a $100,000 purse.