Travis Hampshire posted a record-breaking 12-under-par 60 Thursday and left little doubt about who is in charge after the opening 18 holes of the BMW Charity Pro-Am, a Nationwide Tour event that also features amateurs and celebrities in a better-ball format that is spread over three courses in two states with varying par values.
Hampshire, who turned 30 two weeks ago, blistered the Carolina Country Club with 10 birdies and an eagle to take a five-stroke lead over seven other players. Stephen Gangluff, Greg Owen and Darron Stiles all posted 7-under 65s on the same par-72 course that Hampshire tore apart. Garth Mulroy and Woody Austin carded 7-under 65s at the par-72 Bright’s Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring, N.C. Meantime, Brendon Todd and Will MacKenzie each registered 7-under 64s at Thornblade Club, the host course in the three-course rotation.
Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out who’s really leading until all of the 168 professionals have had a chance to play each of the courses, which form a triangle around the Greenville area and are separated by 30- to 60-minute drives. Hampshire, a rookie on the Nationwide Tour this year, established himself as the man to beat. He missed only one green during his round and needed just 24 putts to match the lowest opening-round score in tour history.
“I had a really good warm-up session this morning and you know that this is the kind of course you’ve got to take advantage of, it’s got the softest greens of the three courses,” said Hampshire, who has missed the cut in his last three starts. “You knew you had to shoot a good round here to get off to a good start.”
Hampshire started fast with a four-foot birdie putt on the first hole and added three in a row twice by the time he reached the 12th tee. He added an eagle and his eighth birdie at No. 15 before closing with back-to-back birdies. He stood in the fairway at No. 18, with a chance for 59 if he holed his second shot from 125 yards.
“You know exactly where you stand. I told myself, ‘you’re hitting it good, you’re putting good, just give yourself a chance,” said Hampshire, who has posted below-par scores in only six of his 14 rounds this year. “I knew the yardage and the club (9-iron) weren’t a perfect match so I picked a target a little more to the right than I normally would have.”
The 2003 Purdue University grad nudged his 25-footer into the cup for his 10th birdie of the day.
“It was a quick putt so I wanted to lag it down there, make four and have a good round,” he said. “I thought I might have hit it a little hard at first. It was just a bonus that it went in. I’ve shot a couple of 61s but this one is pretty gratifying.”
--Travis Hampshire has made only two cuts in six starts on the 2011 Nationwide Tour and is No. 64 on the money list after the first six weeks of the season. He has missed the cut in his last three starts and is a combined 16-over par in his last six rounds. His scoring average for his previous six rounds is 73.66.
--Hampshire, making only his eighth career start and his seventh this year, set or tied several Nationwide Tour and BMW Charity Pro-Am records as well as establishing some season-bests: His 60 tied the lowest opening-round score in Nationwide Tour history, and he became the sixth player to post a 60 on Day 1 of a tournament. Of the previous five, only Chris Nallen went on to win (2004 Gila River Golf Classic).
--Hampshire’s five-stroke lead matches the second-largest first-round lead in Nationwide Tour history. His 60 broke the course record at the Carolina Country Club by two strokes, and is the lowest opening-round score in tournament history. His five-stroke lead is also a tournament record, topping the previous best of two strokes.
-- Hampshire’s 60 is the lowest 18-hole score on the Nationwide Tour this year, and his 7-under 29 on the back nine matches the lowest 9-hole score on tour this year.
--Will MacKenzie had it to 9 under par following back-to-back eagles at Nos. 15 and 16 at Thornblade Club, but then closed with consecutive bogeys to finish at 7 under par. MacKenzie is the first player to register back-to-back eagles on the Nationwide Tour this year. Five players made consecutive eagles last year.