Unlikely birdie sets the tone for Jeff Martin's solid opening round

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SEASIDE, Calif. -- Jeff Martin and caddie Joe Cioe were having a debate on the tee at the par-3 17th -- their eighth hole of the day -- at Black Horse on Sunday.

Martin was thinking he should hit a 7-iron. Cioe thought he should hit a 6-iron. 

Martin listened to his caddie. And, after quite some time, it proved to be a good thing.

"I hit a half a 6-iron like Joe wanted," said the 44-year-old Martin, a pro from Wollaston Golf Club in Milton, Mass. "It took a bounce on the green and it went all the way to the top and it just sat there. I was like, 'Ugh. It's on the back tier and we're going to have to hit a real delicate putt.'"

Not so fast...

"We're literally walking up the fairway and it rolls back down," he continued. "It rolls all the way back down to about a foot and I knocked in the putt for the 2. I got a really good break there. I hit first on the tee. If I had hit last, I probably would have gotten to my ball in time for it not to roll. It was a really weird experience. It just sat there forever. Then it rolled down and Joe says to me, 'See, I told you it was a 6 iron.'"

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That was one of three birdies on the day for Martin, who opened the 2018 PGA Professional Championship with a solid, 1-under 71. 

He was, however, a little disappointed about a bogey on the next hole -- a par 5, which he said was "less hurtful" because of the surprise birdie on 17. 

He also bogeyed his final hole of the day, but is still within three shots of the lead. 

"It was a good day," Martin said. "I didn't drive it particularly well, but I made a lot of putts. I missed a couple coming in. My tee ball on the last hole was horrific. Making bogey from 141 yards out to end it was pretty bad, but all in all, anything under par today is a good score. It's a really good score. The windy is blowing really hard and it's blowing across on all of these holes. It's tough to judge that wind."

In his career, Martin has made it to three PGA Championships. His best PPC finish was a T10 in 2008.

The 71 on Sunday may have caught Martin by surprise. He missed the cut here in 2012 with rounds of 77-76.

"It feels good to get off to a good start, especially here," he said. "The last time I was here I did not play well at all on either golf course. There's some tee balls -- this course in particular -- that I'm not comfortable with. It was good to get this one out of the way, because I actually like Bayonet a lot better. I can bang my driver and it suits my game better than Black Horse."