South African Brenden Pappas and Arkansas resident Ron Whittaker birdied their final hole of the day to shoot 6-under 66s Thursday and share the first-round lead at the WNB Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Both players made their way around Midland Country Club with eight birdies and two bogeys to stand one shot ahead of seven others.
Brandt Jobe, Major Manning, William McGirt, Alistair Presnell, Nate Smith, Andrew Svoboda and Gary Woodland are log jammed at 5-under 67. Bubba Dickerson, the 2001 U.S. Amateur champion, and Luke List, the 2004 U.S. Amateur runner-up, headline a list of 11 others tied at 4-under 68, two back.
Pappas, playing in his fourth Nationwide Tour event of the year, charged to the top of the leaderboard with five birdies on his first nine holes, sharing the spotlight with Alistair Presnell, who finished his bogey-free round an hour before Pappas teed off.
Pappas rolled in two more birdies after he made the turn to go up by two strokes but gave them back with bogeys on the par-5 fourth hole and 224-yard, par-3 eighth hole.
“I had a lesson with David Frost five days ago,” said Pappas, who is a PGA Tour member. “It was just on a couple of little set-up things. It felt really good on the first nine, but then all the old habits started to creep up on the back nine.”
Pappas earned his 2010 PGA Tour card by finishing tied for 12th at Q-School last year. He has played in 19 PGA Tour events this year with his best finish, a tie for 37th, coming at the RBC Canadian Open.
Despite Pappas working on his swing with 10-time PGA Tour winner Frost, one thing he didn’t need help with was his putting. Pappas needed just 24 putts in the first round.
“It’s really nice to putt on some good firm greens,” he said. “They’re going to be nice and hard and fast the rest of the week if this wind keeps up and that’s right in my wheelhouse.”
Whittaker got off to a fast start with four birdies on his first five holes but suffered a bogey at the difficult par-3 eighth hole. He recovered with a birdie four holes later but gave it right back on the par-4 13th hole before jumping back on the birdie train.
“I actually putted really well today,” said Whittaker, who birdied three of his last five holes. “I hit the ball okay but my putter was the key to my round. When it’s windy like this, you have to putt well.”
Whittaker, like Pappas, had 24 putts today. He rolled in a 40-foot putt for birdie on the par-3 3rdhole and then made a 20-footer for birdie from the fringe on the next hole.
Whittaker nearly won here in 2007. He finished regulation play tied with Brad Adamonis, Tjaart van der Walt and Vance Veazey at 10-under 278. Whittaker missed a six-foot putt for par on the first extra hole to be eliminated from the playoff. The playoff ended seven holes later when Adamonis made birdie over van der Walt.
“The wind was so strong today you could hit an 8-iron 195 yards on one hole and then hit it 130 yards on the next hole,” said Whittaker, who ended up winning the Chattanooga Classic the week after the playoff. “That’s what makes this golf course so great. I have good vibes out here. This course sets up well for my game.”
First-Round Notes: Hunter Haas, winner of last week’s Albertsons Boise Open, had his annual barbeque on Tuesday night where he cooks ribs and chicken for all the players and staff. While cleaning up at the end of the night he shut one of the grill lids on his wrist. Despite the injury, he went on to shoot 71 in the first round. … Brandt Jobe birdied five holes in a row (Nos. 18-4) en route to posting 67. … Four players posted bogey-free rounds: Alistair Presnell, 67; Bubba Dickerson, 68; Scott Dunlap, 68; Fabian Gomez, 69. … This is the first time in 134 events Ron Whittaker has been the first-round leader/co-leader.
PGA Tour veteran Billy Mayfair is making the second Nationwide Tour start of his career, following the 2009 WNB Golf Classic, when he tied for 50th place. He has made 669 career cuts on the PGA Tour but hasn’t played since the Wyndham Championship and is preparing for next week’s Viking Classic. The 44-year-old shot 74. … The first-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win the WNB Golf Classic just four times in the event’s 18-year history: Kevin Johnson, 2000; Chad Campbell, 2001; Brandt Snedeker, 2006; Garrett Willis, 2009.