Ryan Alford, the APGA Tour newcomer from Shreveport, Louisiana, shot a four-under-par 68 to seize the first-round lead at APGA Tour Louisville in pursuit of his second consecutive victory on the circuit that has become a force in driving greater diversity in the sport of golf.
The former Louisiana Tech golfer, 24, won APGA Tour Scottsdale on April 20, playing only his fourth APGA Tour event. He scored an eagle on the 18th hole to widen his lead over APGA Tour star Willie Mack and PGA Member Jabir Bilal of Atlanta, who played golf at Grambling State University. Mack, who has played two PGA Tour events this year as a sponsor exemption, and Bilal are both three strokes back at one-under. Alford is a high school teammate and regular practice partner of PGA TOUR standout Sam Burns.
“I’ve been working pretty hard at it. Been playing with Sam and I think that’s helping me,” said Alford, who won APGA Tour Scottsdale by three strokes. “It’s finally coming together, so I’m just keeping it steady and trying to make some putts.”
On the 545-yard 18th hole, Alford found a fairway bunker with his tee shot but then hit a six-iron to 20-feet, calling it his best shot of the day. He then sank the putt to give himself some cushion heading into the final round Tuesday.
The tournament is the APGA Tour’s debut at Valhalla Golf Club, the PGA of America-owned venue in Louisville which hosts some of the biggest championships in golf. Alford, Mack and Bilal were the only three under par on the 7,540-yard, Par 72 layout. Andrew Fernandes of Lakewood, California, and Nick Wade of Lithonia, Georgia, are another stroke back at even par among the field of 50 players competing for a purse of $25,000.
APGA Tour Louisville is the seventh tournament of its landmark 2021 season, the 12th year for the circuit which began in 2010 with three events and $40,000 in purses. The 2021 schedule features 13 events with $350,000 in prize money.
In addition to hosting the event at Valhalla and APGA Tour Black History Month at PGA Golf Club in February, the PGA of America has career consultants at all APGA Tour events, working with players on career development and networking opportunities in the golf industry.
APGA Tour action continues next week with APGA Tour New Orleans May 31-June 2 at PGA TOUR-owned TPC Louisiana.