PGA: Cockerill shoots 74; Hale leads with a 66 |

PGA: Cockerill shoots 74; Hale leads with a 66

Darrell Moody

DAYTON – J.T. Cockerill has played Dayton Valley Golf Club more times than he could count, and one would think that would give him a huge advantage entering the PGA Stage I Qualifying Tournament on Tuesday.

Cockerill, who attended Carson High School and won the Nevada State Amateur championship, double-bogeyed two of his last three holes to finish with a 2-over-par 74 which put him tied for 45th place.

Stephen Hale, former University of California golf star and a member of the Gateway Tour, is the first-round leader with a 6-under-par 66. He has a one-stroke lead over Richard Lee, Nick Mason, Derek Tolan and Nick Delio.

Only 29 players shot 71 or better compared to 41 a year ago. Last year the field averaged 71.51 and Tuesday the average was 73.01.

Cockerill was not happy with his first round.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said. “I hit some good shots. I was even at the turn and got it to 2-under and I was thinking 69 or 70 and I shot 74.

“The greens were faster and more firm than they usually are, and the rough was pretty long. You can’t be too aggressive. You have to play safe shots into the greens.”

Cockerill started his day on No. 10, and started with a bogey on what would normally be an easy par hole for him. He missed the green from less than 100 yards out, chipped on and two-putted.

“I pulled a 60-degree wedge left,” Cockerill said. “It was a bad shot. I had no chance to get (my chip) it close.”

Cockerill got the stroke back with a two-putt birdie from about 20-feet on the par-5 11th. He parred Nos. 12 and 13, setting the stage for his worst hole of his first nine.

His drive on No. 14 found the middle of the fairway, but he was unable to stop his approach shot and it found the back trap. Cockerill blasted out of the bunker, but the shot skittered off the green. He chipped back up and two-putted for a double-bogey to go 2-over par.

“It was pretty quick,” he said. “I wasn’t able to stop it. It was all downhill.”

After a par at No. 15, he knocked his tee shot on the par-3 16th to 5 feet and drained the putt. After a nice par on the 478-yard par-4 17th, he finished the front side with a birdie on the 537-yard par-5. Cockerill hit a 5-iron about 210 over water. The ball landed just short of the green and landed in the hazard area. He chipped out to about 8 feet and made the birdie putt to get it back to even par.

The former Carson star got it to 1-under with a birdie on the 403-yard par-4 second, and after three straight pars, he birdied the par-3 sixth to go 2-under-par.

That set the stage for a disastrous finish. He doubled the next two holes, finding water twice on No. 8.

“I just have to go low tomorrow and make some birdies and not make any doubles,” Cockerill said.

While Cockerill is no stranger to Dayton, this was Hale’s third round ever. He turned pro about four months ago and has won nearly $12,000 on the Gateway Tour and has two wins to his credit.

Hale’s round included eight birdies – 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 12, 15, 17. His longest putt was a 40-foot snake on the 17th, and he had no problems with the lightning-fast greens.

“I putted really well,” Hale said. “These greens are one of the best I’ve ever played on; they’re in the top 2 at least. I was able to read the speed and breaks well.

“It’s pleasant to my eye. All the holes are fair. It’s a fun golf course to play.”

Being a relative newcomer on the course, it was amazing he played that well. Hale credited his college career at Cal for being able to adapt so quickly. In college, golfers play a lot of different courses, places that they sometimes don’t even get a practice round on.

“I just stuck to my game plan,” he said. “I just try to get the ball (safely) on the green in a good position and give myself some good chances.”

Hale said he’s enjoyed his short time as a pro.

“It’s been a good experience,” he said. “I like all the guys. It’s different than college golf.”

Lee managed seven birdies and two bogeys on his round. He bogeyed the par-3 4th and the par-4 12th. Mason recorded nine birdies, two bogeys (Nos. 2 and 5) and a double-bogey (No. 14).

The 72-hole tournament continues today with tee times starting at 9 a.m.