Barcelo and Compton tied for lead at rainy Nationwide opener in Panama

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PGA.com news services

Series:

Rich Barcelo and Erik Compton posted 6-under-par 64s Thursday and share the first-round clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed Panama Claro Championship, the initial tournament on the 2011 Nationwide Tour schedule. Australia’s Gavin Coles is also at 6 under par, but still has three holes to go at the Panama Golf Club.

Play was suspended for two hours starting at 1:50 p.m. due to a rare afternoon thunderstorm and kept 51 players from completing their rounds. First-round play will resume at 8:00 a.m. Friday and second-round tee times will start at 8:50 a.m.

2011 PANAMA CLARO CHAMPIONSHIP

The Panama Claro Championship is the season-opening event on the 2011 Nationwide Tour.

Georgia Tech grad Roberto Castro carved out a 5-under 65 after waiting out the two-hour delay in order to putt out on the 18th green.

“It’s betting than having to come back and hit a 6-iron,” he said after two-putting from 30 feet. “I’ve had a lot of close calls with the rain but I don’t think I’ve ever had an 18th-hole putt. Most of the time you seem to sneak it in, but I finally got caught today.”

Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee headlines a group at 4-under 66 that includes Cliff Kresge, Greg Owen and Colombia’s Camilo Benedetti.

Kyle Reifers tallied four consecutive birdies to reach 4 under thru 15 holes and David Lutterus was also 4 under thru 11 holes. 

Thursday turned out to be the second consecutive 64 for Compton, the 31-year old two-time heart transplant recipient. He posted the same round in Sunday’s final round of the Northern Trust Open on the PGA Tour.

“I felt like I had a really good week last week,” said Compton, who tied for 25th at Riviera after gaining entry as a Monday qualifier. “This week is about trying to ride the train.”

Compton’s carryover was evident from the start -- he birdied his first five holes and six of his first seven despite not playing a practice round.

After a red-eye flight to Miami Sunday night, he found out late Monday morning that he had gone from seventh alternate to being in the field after several players withdrew.

Rather than hustle quickly to Central America, he stayed at home to help celebrate his daughter’s second birthday on Tuesday and talk with his coach before traveling south on Wednesday.

“I thought my wedge game was a little poor at Riviera and there you have a lot of long irons. Here we have a lot of short irons,” he said. “My longtime coach said we didn’t need to go to the range, so we just talked about it at my daughter’s birthday party. I was close last week so for me to go and work on it when I’m tired is pointless.”

First-Round Notes:

--This is the seventh time in the past eight years that the Nationwide Tour has begun its season in Panama. Last year, the Tour opened the season with tournaments in New Zealand and Australia before playing in Central America.

--First-round play was suspended from 1:50-3:50 p.m. due to an unseasonable thunderstorm. This was only the second weather-delay in the tournament’s eight-year history. Play was stopped for less than 15 minutes during last year’s third round because of a fast-developing rain shower.

--First-round was suspended due to darkness at 6:30 p.m. A total of 15 managed to finish play but the 51 players who did not will return to the course and resume their rounds at 8:00 a.m. Second-round play will begin at approximately 8:50 a.m.

--Erik Compton began the day with five consecutive birdies on the front nine. The tournament record for most birdies in a row is six by Andrew Johnson in 2007. The Nationwide Tour record for most birdies in a row to start a round is seven by Rocky Walcher at the 2000 Wichita Open. Compton’s 6-under-par 29 on the front nine today was one short of the tournament record of 28 set by 2010 champion Fran Quinn last year.

--Jeff Brehaut withdrew during the round due to a back injury.

--Josh Geary shot an even-par 70 despite back-to-back double-bogeys at Nos. 7 and 8.

--Defending champion Fran Quinn struggled to a 7-over 77 with no birdies. Quinn has been suffering through back problems since last year.