EDISON, N.J. (August 21 2012)– St. John’s University men’s golfer Pat Wilson of Panther Valley came roaring out of the gates and birdied his way around Plainfield Country Club to the tune of a 7-under 65 to take the first round lead of the 97th Met Open. Wilson, Mike Miller opened with a 6-under 66 who has been a top 10 machine all season long, birdied his first four holes of the day en route to a front-nine 6-under 30.
"I was just hitting the ball really well, hitting it close and the putts just started to fall," the 20-year-old said. "My brother [who's caddying] just told me to keep it below the hole and not fire at the hole. I didn’t really make too much on the back nine, but I gave myself a cushion.”
Defending champion Tyler Hall of Packanack, reigning MGA Player of the Year Mike Miller of Knollwood , 2012 Met PGA Pro Championship winner Rob Labritz of GlenArbor, and 15-year-old phenom Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow share second place after impressive 6-under 66s. Hall said he didn't have many expectations entering this year's championship, and that might have been what propelled him to the low number he posted Tuesday morning.
“The scrambling worked,” he said after his round. “When I hit bad shots, I hit them in the right spots. I started out slow and steady, and then once I made a birdie on 12, that to me was kind of the last of the real treachery out there. After that I kind of just freewheeled it."
Miller was 2-over heading into his ninth hole (championship’s 18th hole) of the day, but then he drained his 9 iron approach shot for eagle. The 50th ranked amateur in the world proceeded to play his next nine holes six-under.
“I started off slow, didn’t really make anything or take advantage of the par 5s,” he said. “But I think I was 8-under on my last 10. My caddy just told me to keep making birdies.”
Ideal weather along with flawless course conditions at Plainfield made for low scores on Tuesday. The par-72 of 6,969 yards is hosting its first Met Open since 1997, when Mike Burke Jr. was crowned the victor and second major championship since Dustin Johnson claimed the Barclays a year ago.
In a stunning turn of events, the course also yielded three aces, which all happened to be on the same hole. Recent New Jersey State Open winner Ben Smith of MGA eClub N.J., Jason Lyons of Rockville Links, and Jim Liu of Stonebridge all nabbed a hole-in-one on the 145 yard par-3 second. National Club Pro winner Matt Dobyns of Fresh Meadow took it one step farther with an albatross on the 517 yard par-5 17th. He finished with a 68.
“I had about 190 yards but I had to keep it under trees so I punched a 5 iron and it bounced off the left edge and it went in,” Doybns explained. “Just luck, that’s all.”
2012 Met Amateur, NJSGA Amateur, and NYC Amateur champion Ryan McCormick of Suburban is two-back after posting a 5-under 67, as is 2007 Met Open winner Frank Bensel of Century and Brian Lamberti of Doral Arrowood.
2010 Met Open runner-up Dan Balin of Burning Tree is tied for ninth after a 68 along with 1999 Met Open winner Mark Brown of Tom O’Shanter and Dobyns.
Web.com Tour pro and 2005 Carter Cup winner Morgan Hoffmann of Arcola and 2012 Westchester Open winner Mike Ballo Jr. of Woodway are in tied for 12th after posting 69s. Hoffmann, who’s currently making a beeline for full-time Tour status, said he played a practice round at Plainfield a week ago and shot 9-under.
“I made three bogeys which were stupid bogeys,” he said. I’ve been swinging really well, working my coach in Orlando for the last three days. Just had some crazy pins out there and didn’t make the putts that were tough. But I feel good going into the next couple of days.”
Former Met Open winners that are at even-par or better include three-time champion Darrell Kestner of Deepdale (71) John Stoltz of Concord Monster (72), Jim McGovern of White Beeches (72), and John Guyton of Metropolis (72).
View results for Metropolitan Golf Association Open Golf Championship