Saskatoon, SK – PGA TOUR Canada – Little Rock, Arkansas’ Drew Stoltz cruised to a 9-under 63 at Dakota Dunes Golf Links on Thursday to take a two stroke lead after the first round of the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel.
The 29-year old Arkansas native carded nine birdies, an eagle and two bogeys for the round, playing the par-5s in 5-under. While the field scoring average rose to 74.20, Stoltz’s career-best round on PGA TOUR Canada gave him the lead by two over Grand Haven, Michigan’s Matt Harmon, who finished shortly after Stoltz with a 65, and by four over Calgary, Alberta’s Ryan Yip, who finished tied for second here last year and posted a 5-under 67.
“If you would have told me I shot this score this morning, I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” said Stoltz.
Winds gusting north of 50 km/h firmed up the course and challenged players on the links-style layout, a stark change from last year’s birdie-filled opening round when the field averaged 69.858 – the best scoring average by the field to par in any round on PGA TOUR Canada in 2013.
“When I got here today, the wind was blowing a lot harder than it did yesterday,” said Stoltz. “It played completely different. I really didn’t know what was going to be a good score, but I turned in 3-under and made a few more, and all of a sudden I was looking at a really good score.”
With two cuts made in three starts on the season, Stoltz currently sits 81st on the Order of Merit and is hoping to cash in on a big week at Dakota Dunes. The former Texas Christian University Horned Frog said he knows he’ll need a handful of standout finishes to achieve the ultimate goal of finishing in the top five on the Order of Merit and advancing to the Web.com Tour.
“The way it’s structured out here, if you can get hot a couple of weeks and get a win or two, that’s kind of what it’s all about,” said Stoltz. “Your good weeks need to be great weeks and that’s kind of the key to getting through.”
Stoltz is making a return to PGA TOUR Canada this year after a successful 2013, when he won the Metropolitan Open in Missouri and claimed another win on the All-American Gateway Tour. He earned conditional status at the 2014 California Qualifying Tournament.
One shot behind Yip was a quartet of players including Montreal, Quebec’s Beon-Yeong Lee, who earned an RBC Canadian Open spot two weeks ago in regional qualifying, Thornhill, Ontario’s Ben Silverman, Yakima, Washington’s Brock Mackenzie and Longwood, Florida’s Jeff Corr.
HARMON GETS CREATIVE IN ROUND ONE
First year PGA TOUR Canada member Matt Harmon said the windy conditions Thursday forced him to get creative, forcing him to hit shots he might not have otherwise tried. The formula paid off, however, as the Michigan native fired a 7-under 65 to sit solo second.
“I love firm courses. It means you can start to get creative,” said Harmon. “You’re not just hitting stock shots all day. You’re hitting it high, you’re hitting it low, you’re changing it up a little bit. It always keeps you on your toes, which I really enjoy.”
Harmon, a former Web.com Tour member who finished second at the 2012 TPC Stonebrae Championship, has a pair of top-10s in three starts this season, finishing T-7 at the PC Financial Open and T-5 Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON.
YIP LOOKING TO DO ONE BETTER THAN LAST YEAR’S RUNNER-UP
Ryan Yip’s best finish on PGA TOUR Canada in 2013 came right here at Dakota Dunes, when he finished 20-under for the week and in a tie for second, one shot behind winner Wil Collins.
The Calgary native is looking for a repeat performance this year, with the hope that reaching 20-under again is good enough to get the job done for his second PGA TOUR Canada win.
“My mindset this week was just that five [under] a day should be good,” said Yip, who won the Jane Rogers Championship in 2009. “I like this course a lot. It sets up well for me. There are five par-5s and I can get home on four of them easily.”
Like the rest of the field, Yip was challenged by the rest of the conditions, but managed the windy conditions in the later part of his round well, including a tidy sand save for par at the 9th, his 18th.
“I’m pretty happy with how I played. It wasn’t too bad when we started, but when we got on the back nine it really started picking up,” said Yip. “It was really tough to hit shots into the green.”Notes:
Weather: 26 degrees. Partly Cloudy. Winds 31 km/h gusting to 50 km/h.
Stoltz’s 63 was the same score as last year’s first round lead posted by Danny Sahl. However, the scoring average in the first round last year was 69.85 in 2013, versus 74.20 this week.
6-time ATP World Tour winner Mardy Fish, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, opened with a 2-over 74 and sat T-71 after 18 holes.
Zero players went bogey-free on Thursday, the first time nobody recorded a bogey-free round in any round this season.
David Byrne had the best round of the afternoon wave with a 2-under 70
Order of Merit leader Joel Dahmen carded a 1-over 73 and sat T-53.
The current cutline is at 1-over, with 70 players at T-53 or better. The last over par cut on PGA TOUR Canada was at the 2013 Syncrude Boreal Open presented by AECON.