Pirie ahead at Rhode Island Senior after opening-round 66
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (September 8, 2014) — George Pirie knows better than most how quirky golf can be. What happened to him on Monday hammered home that point even more than usual.

The periodontist entered the RIGA Senior Championship at Triggs less than confident. "I shot 80 yesterday at Valley,’’ he related. "Cost me fifty bucks.’’

So what happened when the flag went up in the Seniors? All he did was record a dazzling 6-under 66, with six birdies and an eagle, to fly out to the first-day lead. It was the best performance on a perfect weather day that featured a lot of good scoring.

Gary McLane, one of a half dozen former champions in this event (as Pirie is) had five birdies and an eagle (on the par-5 12th) for a 70. Don Wright birdied the last hole to tie McLane for second. Paul Quigley and Tommy Goryl both had 71

The 14-stroke turnaround for Pirie did not happen by accident. It was classic Pirie.

Long hailed as perhaps the hardest worker in state golf circles, the RIGA Hall of Famer did not take his 80 happily. "It was my putting. It wasn’t good,’’ he said. "I went back to Valley to practice (Sunday night). I woke up this morning and went to Valley to practice some more. I didn’t really change much, I just had to get the demons out.’’

It began innocently enough. He was 1-over through five. As one of his playing partner Mike Schmidt, the defending champion explained, "then it began.’’

Pirie put together one of the most impressive runs in any RIGA event all summer.

He birdied 6, then 8 and 9 for a 33 going out. He kept it going after the turn. He birdied the 10th and the par-3 12th and then eagled the par-5 13th. He hit a bump with a bogey on the downhill par-3 14th, but got it right back with another bird on the 15th, making him 7-under in a 10-hole stretch. A routine finish with pars on each of the last three gave him his 66.

He did not take a lot of time to enjoy it.

"I’ve got to run. I’ve got surgery at 2 o’clock,’’ he said. Pirie will be away next week. He has qualified to play in the USGA Senior Amateur that will be held at the Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif.

McLane had a chance to give Pirie a run. The 2010 champion in this event, McLane put together five birdies, including each of the first two holes, and an eagle, also on the 13th. "But I had three bogeys and a double,’’ he said with a shrug of his head. He settled for a 70 and a tie for second with Wright. Wright had five birds himself, including a 15-foot on the final hole, on the way to his 70.

"The greens are great. They’re rolling really nicely,’’ Wright said. "They’re as good as I’ve seen them in a long time.’’

Two others broke par with 71s, Hall of Famer Paul Quigley and Tom Goryl. Goryl had his 71 despite two sixes on par 5s on the back side. Still another of the former champions, George Donnell (2008) matched par 72, as did James Ransford. Ransford had the wildest round of all. He doubled the ninth hole for 41 on the front. He then posted four birds, for pars and an eagle on the back for 31.

The defending champion, baseball Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, posted a 76.

The second and final round will be contested Tuesday at Triggs.

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