Ross Takes Opening Round Lead at Wintergreen with Course-Record-Tying 64
By Stewart Moore
Wintergreen, VA – For a second straight week on the eGolf Tour, Travis Ross of Crookston, MN will enter day two of an event in sole possession of the first-round lead. Just one week after posting a first-round 65 at the tour’s Spring Creek Classic, the former University of New Mexico standout returned to form on Wednesday afternoon, carding nine birdies en route to an 8-under 64 at the tour’s inaugural Championship at Wintergreen Resort.
The Championship at Wintergreen Resort is the 14th of 24 scheduled events on the 2012 eGolf Tour schedule, and is being contested this week at Wintergreen’s Stoney Creek Golf Club (Monocan/Shamokin) in Wintergreen, VA.
Ross, who followed his first-round 65 with rounds of 72-73 to finish T20 at Spring Creek, began his opening round at Wintergreen on the back nine (Shamokin). Two pars to start on Nos. 10 and 11 gave way to his first birdie of the day at the par-3 12th, which in turn put him at 1-under for the round. At the par-5 13th, a wait on the tee turned into a pulled tee shot for Ross, who walked away from the otherwise docile hole with a bogey that pushed him back to even par.
As it turned out, that bogey ignited a career-best round for Ross.
“On 15, I made a 30-footer for birdie that really got my day going,” said Ross, 24. “I hit it pretty tight for much of the round, but that was the one that kind of kicked off the birdies.”
The birdie at 15 was followed by a par on 16, but the par on 16 turned into a quartet of birdies on Nos. 17, 18, 1 and 2 that pushed Ross to 5-under for the round.
“I had a good little streak there at the midpoint of the round,” said Ross, clearly stating the obvious.
Birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 moved Ross to 7-under and in a tie for the lead, but a closing birdie at the par-5 ninth gave him the outright lead at 8-under par. The 8-under 64 was a personal best for Ross on the eGolf Tour, bettering a closing 7-under 64 at the Irish Creek Classic in March.
The 64 also gave Ross a share of the course record on Stoney Creek’s Monocan/Shamokin routing. Ross tied Scotland’s Alan McLean for the honor, who set the initial course record at the Canadian Tour’s Lewis Chitengwa Memorial in 2003.
Entering the tour’s Virginia stretch, Ross put added emphasis on staying in the moment and focusing on each individual shot – as opposed to worrying about score our each day’s outcome.
“Well, it’s easier to be patient when you’re hitting it well,” said Ross. “Ideally, my goal is to focus on the shot at hand, and not try and shoot a number.”
The day one 64 at Wintergreen marks just the third time this year that Ross has opened an event with a round in the 60s. The slow starts, which he says date back to his senior year of college, have often left Ross in catch-up mode entering the latter rounds of tournament play.
“I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, it just takes me a while to get it going,” he said.
Ross’ fast start at Spring Creek evolved into a T20 finish on the week, but he feels as though he was close throughout much of the event.
“I really feel like I didn’t play that much differently over the last two rounds at Spring Creek as I did in the first round,” he said. “I just had a few bad holes that cost me. I feel like I played well, I just didn’t quite put it all together.”
Entering Thursday’s second round at Wintergreen in identical position to where he stood a week ago, Ross will likely stick to his newfound game plan, preaching patience and consistency.
“I’m getting better at hitting certain shots, just protecting par more or less,” he said. “My goal every day is to not make a bogey. But, there is no need to be too conservative tomorrow – there are some good numbers out there.”
Tied for second, one shot behind Ross at 7-under, is Cam Burke of Ontario, Canada and Chris McCartin of Raleigh, NC.
Burke, a native of New Hamburg, Ontario, began his opening round on the back nine at Stoney Creek. A birdie at the par-4 11th took the former Eastern Michigan University golfer to 1-under on his day, but the fast start stalled quickly, and was followed by five consecutive pars.
“I wasn’t really hitting the ball too well, just trying to find my golf swing. My short game definitely held me in there,” said Burke, 25. “All of a sudden I just started going like I can and started making putts, hitting better approach shots. It began to feel like one of those rounds for me.”
“One of those rounds,” as Burke put it, is golfer code for going low – something Burke is all too familiar with. There is perhaps no other player on the eGolf Tour capable of the runs that Burke can get on, and Wednesday’s round quickly became yet another.
A pulled tee shot on the par-5 17th led to a safe punch out from the trees, but when Burke hit a wedge to 10 feet and converted for birdie, it became another one of those rounds.
The birdie on 17 gave way to another birdie at the par-4 18th when Burke hit a 50-degree wedge to a foot and tapped it in for birdie. At the par-5 first, a solid 3-wood second shot turned into a simple up-and-down, and suddenly, Burke was 4-under on the day.
Looking to move further into the red, Burke added another birdie at the par-4 seventh to reach 5-under for his round. At the dogleg-right par-5 ninth, Burke hit a perfect tee ball over the trees guarding the corner of the fairway, and left himself with just 225 yards to the hole.
“That hole is kind of like No. 18, where you can’t really bite off too much on your tee shot,” he said. “I took a good line with my driver and left myself a good look at the pin with a 4-iron.”
A second shot hit to 30 feet set up a closing eagle try for Burke, who calmly rolled it in (courtesy of a read gained off playing partner Chris Kamin’s putt) to close out a 7-under 65.
“I really like the golf course. The fairways are firm and fast, but the greens are still somewhat receptive,” Burke said. “It’s pretty close to a (PGA) Tour set-up, especially off the tee. The firm conditions and thick rough makes it tough to hit fairways. It’s a very good test.”
Burke has quickly made a name for himself on the eGolf Tour as a player who can go low at any time. The opening 65 at Wintergreen marked his 11th round of 66 or better in 2012 alone – with five of those 11 now coming in an event’s first round. This marks the third time in just 14 starts on the year that Burke has held at least a share of the day one lead, dating back to a first-round 64 at the Irish Creek Classic and a first-round 62 at the River Run Classic.
McCartin, a winner at the eGolf Tour’s 2011 Samanah Classic in Morocco, began his opening round on the Shamokin nine as well, posting birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 to move to 2-under on his round.
A bogey at the par-3 12th slowed McCartin’s fast start, but a trifecta of birdies on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 more than made up for it, moving the former Wake Forest golfer to 4-under on the day.
After turning at 4-under 32, McCartin again posted three birdies in a row, this time on Nos. 1 through 3, to move to 7-under for the day. A bogey at the watery par-3 fifth dropped him down to 6-under, but McCartin rebounded with a birdie at No. 7 to get back to 7-under, where he eventually finished after pars on Nos. 8 and 9.
The round was McCartin’s lowest on the eGolf Tour since a final-round 65 gave him his first career title in Morocco last March. At that event, McCartin entered the final round with a two-shot lead, and ran away from the field with a closing 65 to reach 19-under par – four shots clear of his nearest competitor.
Since the breakthrough win, however, McCartin has struggled with just six cuts made in 23 starts. A 26th-place finish at the Pine Needles Classic has been his best finish thus far in 2012, where he has earned just $6,042 to sit at No. 88 on the tour’s money list.
In solo-fourth place after a 6-under 66 is Ryan Gildersleeve of Clearwater, FL.
Gildersleeve, who played in the day’s opening twosome at 7:30 AM, was 1-over par through three holes before resurrecting his round with birdies on 13, 16 and 17 to turn at 2-under 34 (began his round on No. 10). A birdie on No. 1 pushed him further into the red at 3-under, while birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 moved him up to 5-under for the round.
After recording pars on both the par-4 seventh and the par-3 eighth, Gildersleeve wrapped up his day with a birdie at No. 9 to set the early clubhouse mark with a 6-under 66.
The opening day effort comes in Gildersleeve’s first start since a missed cut at the tour’s HGM Hotels Classic at Rock Barn roughly four weeks ago. That missed cut was the first of his season, as the former South Alabama golfer had entered that week with eight made cuts in eight starts, including four top-10 finishes.
The 31-year-old Gildersleeve is currently 15th on the tour’s money list with $31,814 in earnings. He is one of only five players inside the top 15 on the tour’s money list without a win in 2012.
Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, NC is alone in fifth place after a round of 5-under 67 on Wednesday.
Hadley had one of the day’s more up-and-down rounds. Starting on the back nine, the former Georgia Tech star pared No. 10 before ripping off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 11 through 14 to reach 4-under through five holes. An untimely bogey at the par-5 17th dropped him to 3-under for the day, but a follow-up birdie on 18 gave him a 32 at the turn.
From there, Hadley added two more birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, which gave him three in a row following the birdie at 18, and moved him to 6-under for his round. Back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7 moved him down to 4-under on the day, but a closing birdie at No. 9 pushed him back to 5-under par for an opening-round 67.
The day one effort further continued a solid season for the three-time Yellow Jacket “All American.” After missing the cut in the season-opening Palmetto Hall Championship, Hadley has made 11 cuts in a row, and has posted a stellar three top-5 finishes to move up to eighth on the tour’s money list with $37,710 in earnings.
Second-round play in the Championship at Wintergreen Resort will begin at 7:30 AM on Thursday morning. Following the completion of 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 32 players and ties for the final two rounds. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.