Port St. Lucie, Fla. – Evan Wartgow, the 1st Assistant Golf Professional at Koshkonong Mounds Country Club in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, shot a 4-under 68 Thursday for a two-stroke lead after the first round in the 40thNational Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship.
A rookie in this event, Wartgow’s limited experience at The Wanamaker Course came in February when he played nine holes. The 26-year-old began his on-course preparations Tuesday afternoon and put together a solid game plan to shoot the day’s only sub-70 round.
“I controlled the ball good and putted very well. I figured out the speed pretty quickly and I’m really happy with how I played,” Wartgow said. “I never thought I’d be in the lead after 18 holes.”
Opening his round on the 10th hole, Wartgow got off to a hot start, sinking a 30-foot putt on 12 (his third hole). After dropping a stroke on the 14th hole, Wartgow caught fire by chipping in for birdie on 15 and cashing in an eight-foot eagle putt on 16. It was an impressive round considering the prevailing winds gusting throughout The Wanamaker Course.
The Wisconsinite explained, “We’re not used to the sustained 18-19 miles per hour wind the whole way around as you’re playing. Driving the ball is pretty tough. I’m a guy who fades it so the whole back nine I was fighting a cut wind. But I hit it good and kept it out of the wind as best as possible.”
Dakun Chang, the 24-year-old from Asheville, North Carolina, fired a 4-under 32 through his first nine holes, the lowest nine-hole score of the day. He finished with a 2-under 70, currently sitting in a tie for second with Paul Apolenis (Frederick, Maryland), Patrick Grady (Denver, Colorado), Jack Lempke (Frisco, Texas) and Chris Zumpano (Tampa, Florida).
Defending Champion Andy Mickelson, of Lockport, Illinois, posted a 2-over 74 and sits in a tie for 37th place. He struggled early, shooting a 3-over 39 on his front nine (the course’s back nine), but salvaged his round with a 1-under 35 on his final nine holes.
The 2016 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Champion, if eligible, will earn a berth in the 2017 PGA Professional Championship, which will be played at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon, June 18-21. In addition, the top four finishers and ties this week will earn a berth in the 2017 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, if otherwise eligible.
PGA Golf Club is hosting the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship for the 21st consecutive year.
Of the 132 players in the field, only 15 turned in a red number following Thursday’s round.
New York (14 players), Florida (12) and Texas (10) lead the way for most-represented states, while players from Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming failed to qualify.
Past champions in the field include:
Chris Moody of Provo, Utah (2007): 6-over 78 (T90)
Grant Sturgeon of Port Chester, New York (2014): 4-over 76 (T69)
Andy Mickelson of Lockport, Illinois (2015): 2-over 74 (T37)