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Competitors push limits to shoot low scores in first round of Rosauers Open

Conventional wisdom suggests that any golfer hoping to contend for a title in the Rosauers Open Invitational will have to slide outside of his or her comfort zone at some point during the three-day, $135,000 event and post a ridiculously low number.

Jerry Johnson, an unattached professional from Ocean Shores, Wash., took it low during Friday’s opening round of the 54-hole event at Indian Canyon Golf Course, crafting a bogey-free 62 that put him at 9 under par and in a three-way tie for the lead heading into today’s second round.

The 54-year-old Johnson insists he was completely comfortable en route to making nine birdies and shaking off a missed 3-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole to shoot his lowest 18-hole score on the 6,255-yard, par-71 Canyon layout since he first played in the Rosauers in 2000.

“For a lot of people, it does require getting out of their comfort zone,” said Johnson, who shares the early lead with Darek Franklin, an assistant pro at Willamette Valley Country Club in Canby, Ore., and Chris Everson, an amateur playing out of Horn Rapids Golf Club in Richland. “But that was my third 62, so I would like to think I was still in mine.

“It’s been a long time since I put a full tournament together, though, so we’ll see. Like I said, shooting a 62 isn’t out of my comfort zone, but winning the Rosauers would be.

“This will be a good test to see if I can follow up and play a couple of solid rounds the next two days.”

But even that might not be enough to earn the title, as a field of 159 took advantage of near-perfect scoring conditions to hang up some solid numbers.

Franklin, like Johnson, finished without a blemish on his scorecard in posting his 62, while Everson made 11 birdies – including seven on the front nine, where he shot a 6-under-par 29 – to help offset a pair of bogeys.

Meridian Valley Country Club pro and 2011 Oregon Open champion Brian Thornton and John Eisentrout, an amateur from Tumwater (Wash.) Valley Golf Course, shot 63s, and three others finished with 64s. Past champions Corey Prugh, from Manito Country Club, and Casey McCoy, from The Dalles (Ore.) Country Club are another shot back at 65.

Spokane native and defending champion Kyle Kelly opened with a 4-under 67 and is tied with four others – including three-time champion Jeff Coston and The Creek at Qualchan head professional Mark Gardner – for 13th.

Franklin earned his share of the lead by knocking down several testy birdie putts – including a 50-footer on the 224-yard, par 3 eighth hole.

“I putted really, really well, and lucked in a few,” he said. “It wasn’t like I kept it below the hole that much, but my speed was really good. I never felt like I was one of those guys who go really low, but I’ve been thinking about going it at this tournament.”

The next challenge for Franklin, Johnson and Everson will be coming up with a fitting encore today.

“It’s hard,” Franklin said about trying to put together back-to-back low rounds, “and I’d be lying if I said I’m going out tomorrow thinking, ‘Gee, I did it once, so I might as well do it again.’ My goal will be to go out, forget about today’s round and just play golf.

“If I went out tomorrow and shot a 68, I’d be completely happy.”

Among the other highlights of Monday’s opening round was the hole-in-one recorded by Jeff Sweat, an amateur playing out of Manito Country Club on the 178-yard, par 3 13th.

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