DALLAS, Texas — Players looked to get off to a fast start Friday at the 106th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity after Texas Golf Association officials on Thursday shortened the championship from 72 to 54 holes because of torrential rains early in the week. No one sprinted out of the gate faster than Houston’s David Lee, who carded seven birdies on his way to a 6-under-par 65 to grab the first round lead.
Teeing off No. 1 in the morning wave, Lee, who plays out of Memorial Park Golf Course, took advantage of the ideal scoring conditions at Bent Tree. He birdied four holes on the front nine for a 4-under 31 then added three more birdies on the back for a 2-under 34. His lone bogey came at the par-4 15th .
“I feel like this was a round waiting to happen for me,” Lee said. “I hit a lot of solid shots today and my putting was fantastic.”
A former member of the SMU Men’s Golf Team, Lee has played Bent Tree on multiple prior occasions.
“It certainly helped with my comfort level and definitely made it easier,” Lee said. “I won’t pretend it didn’t.”
Michael Cotton and Preston Stanley, both of Katy, are tied for second at 5-under 66.
Stanley, an All-Southland Conference honoree from Houston Baptist, started his round on No. 10 and reeled off four birdies and an eagle for a 6-under 30. Stanley followed up with two more birdies on the front nine but also carded three bogeys for a 1-over 36.
“I made a lot of putts today,” Stanley said. “I got hot at the end of my first nine and actually missed a couple of putts I thought I’d made. Overall, though, I’m very pleased with my round. There are several difficult holes, but I took care of them today.”
Cotton, a member of the University of North Texas Men’s Golf Team, is playing in his first Texas Amateur and opened with his lowest competitive round.
“I didn’t hit it great, but I got up and down a lot and putts went in,” Cotton said. He and his college golf coach devised a strategy for the championship and Cotton intends to stick with it. “Our game plan was to be a couple under every round, but a few more putts went in today. Now I’m just going to try and stick to the game plan Coach and I came up with.”
Lewisville’s Grant Bennett from Bear Creek GC sits alone in fourth place, two shots of the pace with a 4-under 67. Bennett, who plays at Wichita State, started on No. 10 and had one birdie and one bogey on the back nine for an even-par 36. He got things rolling with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, then chipped in for birdie on No. 7 and hit a 3-iron to 10-feet on the 224-yard, par-3 eighth hole for another birdie on his way to 4-under 31.
“I just kept trying to hit solid shots and give myself a bunch of looks at birdies,” Bennett said. “My caddie plays at Bent Tree all the time, so that is a great help.”
Two teenagers from Austin, 17-year-old Cooper Dossey of the Legends Junior Tour and 19-year-old Matthew Perrine of Austin Country Club are three strokes back in fifth place. Four players, including Bent Tree members Scott Fawcett and Frank Paul, posted 2-under 69s.
A total of 14 players finished under-par in the opening round.
One player who just missed getting into red numbers was Austin’s Statton Nolen, who finished with three birdies and three bogeys for an even-par 71. Nolen, runner-up to Will Zalatoris in last year’s championship at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, said he was eager to get back into the thick of things.
“I felt like I gave away several shots out there today,” said Nolen. “I just need to try and relax and stay patient, because there are birdies to be made out here.”
The second round begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. After the conclusion of the second round, the 144-player field will be cut will to the low 54 scores and ties. The final round concludes Sunday.
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