Matt Cowell didn’t play well in the final round of the 2012 Rosauers Open Invitational, but he learned some valuable lessons.
Cowell, who wasn’t in the title chase, tried to unleash the driver and overpower some of Indian Canyon’s shorter holes, particularly the par 4s, but he found trees and rough more than birdies and shot a 73.
“It taught me (that) unless you’re hitting the ball perfectly off the tee, there’s just too much trouble,” said the 27-year-old assistant pro at Lake Padden Golf Course near Bellingham. “There’s not much of an advantage to having a 20- to 30-yard chip versus a 90- or 100-yard shot from the fairway. This year I told myself stay back and be patient.”
Cowell’s revised strategy resulted in a 10-under-par 61 Friday in the opening round of the 2013 Rosauers and a three-shot lead over defending champion David Phay and former Eastern Washington Eagle Brian Thornton in the 54-hole event. Downriver’s David Fern, Kevin Anderson from Appletree in Yakima, and 1991 champion Rob Gibbons, head pro at Arrowhead in Molalla, Ore., shot 65s.
Ryan Malby, from Iron Horse in Whitefish, Mont., fired a 66. Manito assistant pro Corey Prugh and amateur Rob Seibly were among a group of eight players to card 67s.
Cowell’s 61 is believed to be a tournament record and equaled the course record. His previous career best was a 10-under 62 at Lake Padden.
“The key was hitting driver on the holes it was necessary and on the risk-reward holes laying up with 3-iron off the tee,” said Cowell, who is playing in his second Rosauers. “I had a lot of wedges in. I really played smart and gave myself opportunities.”
Cowell, playing in the first tee time at 7:30 a.m., started on the back side – the nines are opposite from regular play at the Canyon – and opened with three birdies. He had a three-putt bogey, but more than offset that with nine birdies and an eagle.
He had 13 putts on each nine. He lipped out a downhill 4-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 18th.
“I didn’t get into much trouble and I made a few putts,” Cowell said. “I tried not to think about my score too much when I got to 6, 7, 8 under and just tried to keep hitting good shots.”
Thornton, assistant pro at Meridian Valley in Kent, penciled 10 4s and eight 3s on his scorecard. He had birdies on 2, 5, 6, 12 and 15 and eagled 18.
Phay, from Whidbey Golf Club in Oak Harbor, Wash., shot 31 on the back side with birdies on 10, 13 and 18 and an eagle on the 267-yard par-4 17th.
Starting at No. 4, Anderson had a stretch of 3-3-3-3-2-3-3-3, six birdies sandwiched between two pars.