So much for a bad round.
Defending champion Christian Brand fired a 6-under 66 Saturday at Pipestem Resort State Park and is tied with two-time former champion Brandon Reece after the first day of the BNI Memorial Tournament.
Brand, a golfer at Marshall University, looked like he might be headed for disaster early Saturday, when he went out-of-bounds on No. 4. He settled for a bogey.
For the Charleston native, who qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship earlier in the week, it was nothing a birdie and eagle on the next two holes couldn’t fix.
“I started out slow,” Brand said. “When I was younger, it might have bothered me. But I knew there were a lot of birdie holes left out there and I could still shoot a low score. After I went birdie-eagle (on Nos. 5 and 6), that kind of jump-started my round.”
He finished with birdies on 11, 13, 15 and 16.
Reece, who now lives in Raleigh, N.C., was steady as well and said his round could have been better.
“I played pretty well,” he said. “Actually, I left a few out there. I just didn’t do anything stupid. I didn’t have any score in mind. I haven’t played the courses since last year’s BNI.
Reece’s round included birdies on 1, 4, 9, 11, 12, 16 and 17 with a bogey on No. 14.
“It was definitely good to get those late birdies,” Reece said.
The BNI, which was contested on Pipestem and Grandview Country Club’s courses Saturday (they will flip for today’s second round), is being played in memory of young golfer Ben McGraw. His dad Greg carded a 1-over 73 Saturday at Pipestem.
The top scores of the day were turned in at Pipestem.
Chris Sparks, a former Bluefield State golfer, and Tad Tomblin were two shots back after 4-under 68s.
“We played a lot here when I was at Bluefield, but I think 68 is my best round here,” Sparks said. “In the past, we’ve started at Grandview. It was nice to come in and shoot a low number and put myself up there, but there is a lot of golf left.”
Aaron Boggs, Joel Davis and former two-time champion Leigh Smith were tied for fifth 2-under 70s. Smith, who was playing at Grandview, had the low score at that location.
Davis was happy with his score, putting him in the lead in the Senior Division.
“It was good for me,” the Oak Hill High School teacher said. “Three birdies and a bogey. It kind of evened out. I missed some birdie putts I should have made, but I made some par putts I probably shouldn’t have made. Like I said, it was a good round for me.”
Four players — Winston Canada, Van James III, Bosten Miller and former champion Alan Wharton — are tied for eighth after they came in at 1-under-71. Canada and James were at Grandview, Miller and Wharton at Pipestem.
Alan Brinegar, Nick Dent, Aaron Kemlock and Bruce Wetherholt all carded even-round 72s. All but Wetherholt opened at Grandview.
Right now, they are chasing a couple of capable young guns, with titles already beside their names.
“It’s nice to see Brandon come in with a 66,” Brand said. “You always like to see the competition. That’s how you become a better golfer.”
“It’s a nice start,” Reece said. “I like Grandview, it’s a little wider, but what it comes down to is making putts. I guarantee you, the person who makes the most putts is going to be the person who wins this tournament.”
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