The Staal Foundation Open was only a few hours old and already the course record had fallen.
Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Brandon Harkins shot a bogey-free, eight-under 64 on Thursday at Whitewater Golf Club on the opening day of the PGA Tour Canada event to hold the outright lead after 18 holes of the 72-hole event.
Harkins, a four-year veteran on tour, finished tied for 13th last month in Victoria, his top finish of the season. He said it was a steady round from start to finish, particularly as he made the turn.
"If you can get through those holes you can kind of get going on that back side. And that’s kind of what I did. I parred 10 and 11, birdied 12 and just kind of got a bit of momentum there and made a few putts,” Harkins said.
A runner-up at the 2013 Great Waterway Classic, he said he had no idea he’d set the course record from the tips.
“It feels good. I wasn’t aware of that, so it wasn’t on my mind. But the task today was just to shoot the lowest round possible and I feel like I did, I got the most out of my round,” said Harkins, whose early clubhouse lead stood tall when play wrapped up.
It’s an American-dominated leaderboard, with eight of the top 11 spots belonging to golfers from south of the border.
Rio Ranche, N.M.’s Timothy Madigan was a shot back, finishing with a 65, a round that included nine birdies and a pair of bogeys, a score matched later in the day, in windier conditions nonetheless, by Stockton, Calif.'s Joshua Stone.
Stone, who started on the back, made five birdies on his first nine holes to jumpstart his round. Luckily he's a good scrambler.
"I had some really great breaks. I had a bad drive on 4 and got up and down from 70 yards, making a 15-footer for par. On No. 5 the wind was just swirling and switching there and I hit a shot that kind of flared to the right and ended up in some of the long stuff. I got a really great break there and I holed the shot for birdie. I was just trying to figure out some way to get it on the green," Stone said.
Orange County, Calif.’s Sean Shahi fired a six-under 66, one better than Jeff Dennis, Adam Long and Ryan Terdik, the top-scoring Canadian.
Quebec’s Max Gilbert carded a four-under 68, one back of Terdik.
“It felt good. I played very well today,” said the St. Georges native, the winner of last year's Canadian Tour Championship.
“I had a good start. I was five-under through eight. That was a great start. The key was to keep making putts.”
Jamie Depiero, who works at the host Whitewater Golf Course, was the lone local to go out in the morning, and shot a four-over 76, the top Thunder Bay score of the day.
Depiero, who started on the back, was one-under through eight holes, recording birdies on Nos. 14 and 17, but took a double on the par 5 18th, the victim of a wayward drive.
“I was feeling pretty good at that point and then a quick pull left on the bush on 18 ended that pretty quick. But you know what, it was a great experience. It was awesome,” said Depiero, who earned his spot in the tournament at last month’s one-day qualifier at Strathcona Golf Course.
Divot marks: Thunder Bay's Robbie Untinen is the only other golfer to shoot 64 at Whitewater in tournament play, but he did it on a mixture of tees, both blue and gold ... Vermillion Bay's Jordan Krantz scored an even par 72 on his round, tied for 72nd ... The top 60 golfers and ties will make the cut after Friday's round ... Canadian Riley Wheeldon withdrew after an opening-round 77 ... Fellow Canadian Matt Hill, a pre-tournament favourite to win the Staal Foundation Open, had back-to-back holes he'd rather forget, taking a quadruple-bogey 8 on No. 11 and a quintuple-bogey 10 on No. 12.
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