OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. (AP) – South Carolina senior Matt NeSmith shot a 5-under 65 on Monday on Olympia Fields' North Course to take the first-round lead in U.S. Amateur stroke-play qualifying.
NeSmith, from North Augusta, South Carolina, had six birdies and a bogey. He won The Players Amateur this year and played in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
"I think it helped playing the Open," NeSmith said. "It kind of made this not as big. I mean, big, but I'm not as nervous, I'm not as fidgety. I was able to relax a little bit more and play a great round of golf."
The top 64 after the second round Tuesday will advance to match play on the North Course.
Georgia senior Lee McCoy of Clarkesville, Georgia; former Iowa player Nathan Yankovich of Blacklick, Ohio; Australia's Ryan Ruffels; and Japan's Kenta Konishi were a stroke back. Ruffels and Konishi opened on the North Course, and McCoy and Yankovich played the South Course.
"I made a lot of 10- to 12-foot par putts, which is big just to keep a bit of momentum going," Ruffels said. "Around the North Course, which is so hard, if you drop (a shot), it's very easy to drop one on the next, too, and it kind of just rolls on from there. So the more you can save, the better."
Defending champion Gunn Yang of South Korea was tied for 116th after a 73 on the North Course. Yang is a sophomore at San Diego State.
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