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DeGrazia leads local Staal Open contingent (6 photos)

Thunder Bay golfer figures he needs a score in the 60s to survive the halfway cut.

THUNDER BAY – Evan DeGrazia scrambled plenty on Thursday, but still managed to put together a round that’s kept him hunt to play the weekend at the Staal Foundation Open.

DeGrazia birdied two of his final three holes in the opening round of his fifth attempt at the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event and shot an even-par 72, leaving him 10 shots off the lead, but in fairly decent shape headed into Day 2 at Whitewater Golf Club.

He has an idea where his score will need to be, given there were 67 golfers at 2-under or better in the opening round and the top 60 and ties make the cut.

“I definitely need something in the 60s tomorrow, but as long as it starts with a six, I’m OK with that,” DeGrazia said.

The Newberry College graduate, who attempted to Monday qualify in Windsor last week and was a late addition to this week’s field in his hometown, bogeyed the fourth hole, but found his groove on the sixth, starting a run of three straight birdies.

He struggled at the turn, bogeying four of seven holes starting with the ninth, but was able to right the ship down the stretch.

It was a slog, DeGrazia said.

“I found my stride on six, seven and eight. Then play slowed down. It was really hot. The wind was in a swirl, so it was tough in around the turn. But I steadied the ship, got it back to level, so I’m pretty happy with that.”

The goal for Friday is simple.

“Fresh greens, make ‘em all,” De Grazia said. “That’s pretty much how I hit it today. I just have to go and make every putt.”

Among the remaining four locals in the field, it was Jeremy Kirk who posted the next best score, shooting a 6-over 78, a round that included three birdies, five bogeys and a pair of doubles.

Not perfect, but acceptable, he said.

“It was a rough start in a sense. I held it together pretty well and played some solid golf … in part of the round and ended with a few struggle of a holes. But all in all, it was fun to be out there,” said Kirk, who qualified by winning the Keg District Open earlier this month.

Five-time club champion Barry Caland wasn’t thrilled with the number he put up, an 8-over 80, but also wasn’t going to lose sleep over it.

“All in all, even as poorly as I played, 72, 71, 70 was available today, even for me. It was fun. It was a good experience for me to see some people I know out watching. And I got to birdie 18 in front of all the people here, which was nice,” Caland said.

Playing partner Matt Simmons opened with a birdie on the 10th hole – their first – but tripled the 11th and wound up with a 9-over 81, tying him with fellow Thunder Bay golfer Walter Keating Jr.

“All in all, pretty good,” Simmons said. “I got a few birdies out of the day. Getting off to that great start, birdying that first hole, got my mind off and it took me a few holes to settle back into it. That’s golf.”

Keating, a former touring pro, wasn’t as optimistic about his score.

“I was 6-over after three holes with three bad swings. It definitely wasn’t what I was looking for,” he said.

With the cut out of reach, Keating said Friday will be about putting his best possible round together.

“I don’t have 10-under in my bag anymore. I have six or seven, but I don’t have 10. The amount of time I put in, I would never have thought what happened today was going to happen. I’m very disappointed.”