A little course knowledge never hurt any golfer. Lots is even better.
Mark Wurtz didn’t know much about Indian Canyon before Friday, but he knew somebody who did.
“I learned a lot from my dad (Ted). He grew up on this course,” said Wurtz, minutes after dunking an eagle chip on No. 18 for a sizzling 8-under 63 on Friday in the first round of the Rosauers Open Invitational. The 54-hole event continues this morning, beginning at 7:30.
“He explained to me in the car on the way over here how to play the holes and I really had a picture of it in my mind,” said Wurtz, taking a break from the Nike Tour to play the Rosauers.
This was only Wurtz’s second trip around Indian Canyon. He shot 73 in the Pro-Am on Thursday, but made a minor putting adjustment and his score plummeted.
“It seemed like I had birdie putts all day,” Wurtz said.
And a couple of eagle putts as well. Wurtz hit 17 greens in regulation and two-putted twice for birdies (No. 2 and No. 12) - making his 63 look, well, fairly routine.
“I remember making the comment, ‘Look at this scorecard,”’ said Tim Hval, who plays out of Broadmoor in Portland. He played in Wurtz’s threesome. “He had seven 3s through 11 holes.”
Wurtz holds a two-stroke lead over Jeff Freeman, who lives in Palm Desert, Calif., 15 minutes from Wurtz’s home in La Quinta. The two are friends who often golf together when it fits into their schedules.
Michael Combs (Longest Drive range, Kennewick) shot 66. Indian Canyon assistant pro Dave Christenson and Colville amateur Kent Brown are at 67.
Two primary contenders, Chris Mitchell (Sun Dance) and Jeff Coston (Semiahmoo) are in a group bunched at 69.
Wurtz, 31, was pleased, but not surprised by his score, which equaled the Canyon’s competitive course record. The former PGA Tour player (1994-95) recently broke the course record at Port Ludlow - his father’s home course - by three shots with a 61.
One of his rare errant shots came after a 15-minute wait on the tee box at 16. He pulled his drive left and was forced to chip back into the fairway. A dandy approach left him 6 feet from the hole, but his putter finally misfired.
“That kind of got my adrenaline going again,” he said.
He made a 5-footer for par on 17. His approach on 18 took a friendly kick off a side hill toward the green. On the fringe facing a swift downhill chip, Wurtz coaxed the ball home from 18 feet for eagle.
“That could have slid 5 or 6 feet by if it didn’t go in,” Wurtz said.
His golf success is being rivaled by those in his personal life. He was married in March and the couple just found out their first child is due in eight months.
The pack pursuing Wurtz is strong.
Freeman, playing the back nine first, missed eight straight birdie putts before a two-putt birdie on No. 18 (his ninth hole). He scorched the closing nine in 30, with birds on 6, 7 and 9.
“I’m still trying to catch my buddy,” Freeman said, in reference to Wurtz.
Like Wurtz, Freeman hit 17 greens in regulation. Freeman is playing via a special exemption from Indian Canyon pro Gary Lindeblad.
Christenson, hired on at the Canyon by Lindeblad 12 years ago, was solid throughout his 4-under round.
“I just need two more rounds like that,” the 28-year-old said.
Mitchell burned the lip of the cup with putts all day and settled for 69. Coston, too, had a “what-if” round.
“I could have done some damage,” said Coston, the points leader on the Pacific Northwest PGA Section tour. The Rosauers is one of six majors on the circuit. “This is the kind of course you can get it going on. I’m just waiting to get it going.”
With Wurtz and Freeman around, Coston might not want to wait long. After today’s round, the field will be cut to the top 65 pros, counting ties, as well as any amateur on that list, for Sunday’s final round.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LEADERBOARD Mark Wurtz 63 Jeff Freeman 65 Michael Combs 66 John McComish 67 David Christenson 67 Kent Brown* 67 Joe Trembly 68 Aaron Kerth* 68 Jared Jeffries* 68 (* denotes amateur)
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