Dayton course soft in qualifier |

Dayton course soft in qualifier

Larry Windsor
For the Appeal

DAYTON — The softest and most receptive greens in 21 years of PGA Tour Qualifying tournaments at Dayton Valley Golf Club produced a leaderboard full of red numbers in the first round of Tour Stage One Qualifying Tuesday. Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho, led the way with a 6-under par 66. Jake Johnson, Cameron Park, Calif. and J.R. Meyers, Saratoga, Fla. were just one shot back with opening rounds of 67.

Another shot off the lead with opening round 68s are Bryan Martin, Thousand Oaks, Calif., Martin Trainer, Palo Alto, Calif. and Erick Justesen from San Jose, Calif. Nine players are tied for seventh at 3-under par.

This is Williams’ second time through the Dayton qualifier after finishing 72-holes tied for third at 8-under in 2013.

“I was surprised at how soft the greens are this time in my practice round yesterday, I was leaving my shots short on the first few holes because they weren’t running out,” Williams said. “With the softer course and greens rolling as good as they do here, it didn’t play too tough today.”

Williams came to Dayton in 2013 shortly after being ranked the No. 1 amateur in the world and playing in the U.S. Open. He made his professional debut at the PGA Tour 2013 Travelers Championship just a few weeks later and played in the 2013 Reno-Tahoe Open. He sailed through the first stage at Dayton but failed to make it to the qualifying finals and the golf seas have been pretty rough for him since then.

“I got off to a slow start and it’s tough to see my buddies that I competed against doing so well out there,” said the 24-year-old former Washington Huskies star. “But I’m still young and I’m not worried about it. I guess it has taken me longer to adjust to the lifestyle of a touring pro and finding the right mindset.”

Part of the adjustment has been dealing with a chronic back injury that occurred shortly after playing at Dayton in 2013. It turns out to be a chronic injury that needs constant attention.

“It’s getting better and I have it worked on everyday by a chiropractor but I can’t practice as much as I would like and that’s just part of all of the adjustments I’m learning to make,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot more from failing than from the successes I’ve had and I’m better off for it going forward.”

The ultimate barometer on the softness of the greens comes from Chris Kamin, Phoenix, Ariz. who’s playing in his 13th qualifier at Dayton with the first time in 1997.

“Softer than ever,” said the 41-year old veteran of qualifiers, mini-tours and the pursuit of the big tour. “Every part of the course from the fairways, greens, and grass around the hazards is softer and makes conditions easier than I can remember.”

After finishing tied for sixth place at 9-under to advance to the second stage at Dayton in 2012, Kamin said it was going to be his last time through the q-school process regardless of how it ended that year. Good to his word, he went back home to Phoenix and started what is now a successful insurance agency and hasn’t played much competitive professional golf since, mostly just playing with his buddies at his home club.

“I started playing well and felt my game was back so I decided what the hell I’ll give it another shot,” he said. “I really started to miss the competition and now that I have things set family-wise I can give it another shot.”

Kamin was 3-under through 16 holes when he finished triple bogey, bogey to end up at 1-over 73 in his first round. “I played well, hit 14 greens in regulation and then I made one bad shot, I guess if I had a mulligan I would have finished 3-under,” he said in the manner of a club golfer. “But I’d rather shoot 73 in the first round than in the last to not qualify. Now I just need to get to work to make sure I’m inside the number when I leave on Friday.”

In all 30 of the 77 players in the field were under par and another seven shot even par. The field had an overall opening round scoring average of 72.74 — lower than last year’s first round average of 74.02.

The 24 low scores and ties after Friday’s final round of the 72-hole tournament will advance to Second Stage Tour Qualifying at five sites in November. Players advancing to the second stage will play to make the Qualifying School Final where they will vie for a spot on the 2016 Tour.

For complete results and individual player scorecards visit the web link: