DAYTON - "Pretty good for these conditions" was the common answer that golfers used when questioned about their play in the first round of the PGA Tour Stage One Qualifying Tournament at Dayton Valley Golf Club on Tuesday.
A steady wind of up to 15 miles per hour with gusts up to 25 mph blew-in around mid-morning and made the already hard and fast greens even more treacherous than intended. But 35 players in the tightly bunched field still managed to shoot sub-par rounds on the day.
Former Stanford golfer Steve Ziegler of Westminster, Colo., fired a 5-under 67 to take the lead. But even Ziegler's stellar round that was highlighted by an eagle and six birdies also included a double bogey on the relatively easy par-3 13th hole.
Derek Berg (Kenmore, Wash.), Dusty Fielding, (Washington, Utah) and Gregor Main (Danville, Calif.) all carded 4-under 68 to tie for second. Clay Ogden (Farmington, Utah) holds solo fifth with an opening 3-under 69.
"I thought 68 was a good score especially with a ball out of bounds on No. 8," said Main, who finished in a tie for 9th last year at Dayton. "I made a lot of good putts considering these are the fastest greens I've putted in quite a while."
The closely bunched field has another 30 players just behind the five leaders. Fifteen players are tied for sixth after shooting 2-under par 70 including European Tour player Oliver Fisher of England and Gunner Wiebe, son of PGA and Champions Tour player Mark Wiebe. Another 15 players carded 1-under scores and are tied for 21st.
Among those tied at 1-under 71 is Benoit Bessier, Scottsdale, Ariz. who is playing in his sixth Dayton qualifier, making it to the Q-school finals last year after finishing T7th here.
"It's playing tougher than any other time I've played here," Bessier said. "But you just have to keep your head down and keep going, remembering it's a marathon not a sprint in qualifying."
Darren Fletcher, Cave Rock, Ariz. shot a 1-under 71 to head a group of four former Nevada Wolf Pack golfers in the field.
"Wasn't a very good day, " Fletcher said. "I seemed to struggle a lot and made a couple of bad mistakes."
Scott Smith, Fallon and Kevin Lucas, Folsom, Calif. shot 1-over 73 and are in a tie for 42nd. Jared Becher played the par-3's 6-over leading to a disappointing 5-over 77. Former UNLV and Galena High golfer Travis Whisman opened with a 6-over 78.
"I just didn't have it today," said Whisman who spends most of his time now in Maricopa, Ariz.
NOTES: Despite the difficult conditions, 35 players carded rounds under par in the first round attesting to the high caliber of players in the field. The field had an overall scoring average of 72.54 just over par 72... Play continues today with the first tee times beginning at 9:00 am off both the 1st and 10th tees. The event is free to the public...The low 19 scores and ties will advance to Second Stage Qualifying. Qualifying players advance to Second Stage Tournaments at six sites around the country next month.