BY DARRELL MOODY
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO " It was 20 minutes before Michelle Wie was scheduled to tee off Thursday on the No. 1 tee, and the crowd, which featured a lot of women and young girls, was already lined up two and three deep all along the fairway.
"It's the largest gallery I've seen on a Thursday," commented one of the volunteer marshals on the opening hole. "This might be bigger than what you'll see on Sunday with the last group."
Wie, playing in her eighth men's event on the PGA Tour, certainly didn't disappoint her gallery, shooting a respectable 1-over-par 73 in the opening round of the 10th annual Legends Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
It was easy to see that the crowd was behind Wie every step of the way. They groaned when she hit a bad shot and cheered when she made a birdie.
"The gallery was great today," Wie said. "They cheered me on whether I made bogey or birdie. They really saved it for me today and I really want to thank them for their support.
"A lot of people are coming up to me this week saying, 'I know you can do it'. It really got me thinking positive. It was very good energy."
Wie received one of two sponsor's exemptions and Marty Welch of Reno, who has seen the past four tournaments, was happy to see that happen.
"That's what the exemptions should be used for," Welch said. "It's good for the tournament. The tournament is trying to find out how to be here long term."
Carson High School girls golf coach Terry Gingell watched Wie warm up and play the first hole.
"Obviously she has all the potential in the world," said Gingell, who said he was happy to see Wie invited to the event. "People might be more receptive if she'd been more successful. Annika (Sorenstam) was the top player in the women's game."
Reno's Susan Barber said she has seen Wie on the course throughout the week.
"It's wonderful," Barber said. "I think everybody wants her to succeed."
No doubt if Wie can reach the weekend, one can expect her to draw some more fans through the gates.
MAST IN THE HUNT
Dick Mast, who is a regular on the Champions Tour, overcame two double-bogeys to shoot a 3-under-par 69 and is in a position to make his first PGA Tour cut since the 2005 Sony Open in Hawaii.
Mast's best finish on the Champions Tour is a tie for 32nd at the Turtle Bay Championship. This was just his second under-par round this year. He previously shot a 67 in the opening round of the Cap Cana Championship in the Dominican Republic.
ACE FOR OMAR
Omar Uresti aced the 183-yard 16th on Thursday, the eighth hole-in-one in the history of the tournament.
It was Uresti's second ace of his career. His first came in the 1997 Bell Canadian Open.
There has been a hole-in-one every year since 2004. In 2006, Yusaku Miyazato had two aces in the same round. He aced the 220-yard 7th and the 186-yard 12th.
THE HOLE REPORT
The easiest hole on the course was No. 4, a par-5, 518-yarder which played to a 4.712 average. The second-easiest hole was another par-5, No. 9. It measures 616 yards. The hole played to a 4.758.
The toughest hole during the first round was No. 14, a 491-yard par-4. It played to an average of 4.348. The second-toughest was No. 8, a 464-yard par-4. That hole played to a 4.280.
There were seven eagles and 448 birdies recorded on Thursday along with 365 bogeys, 38 double-bogeys and eight triple-bogeys.
The scoring average was 72.674 on Thursday
FACTS & FIGURES
The first-round leader here failed to win in the first six years of the tournament, but that trend has been reversed with the recent victories by Vaughn Taylor in 2005, Will MacKenzie in 2006 and Steve Flesch in 2007 ... This is Ian Leggett's fourth start of the 208 season, and he's in good shape to make the cut after an opening-round 68 ... It was a mixed bag for the three past champions in the first round. Notah Begay III shot 69, Kirk Triplett shot 71 and Chris Riley had an 80... Players in the morning round shot a shade over 72, while players in the afternoon group were at 73.9.
- Contact Darrell Moody at email@example.com or (775) 881-1281