SEASIDE – After the first round of 48th Annual Public Links Championship, current NCGA Player of the Year points’ leader, Russell Humphrey, leads by a single stroke. Humphrey posted a score of one-under 71 at Bayonet GC—a course that was stretched out to nearly 7,100 yards—to lead a quartet of players at even-par 72.
Humphrey started off his round steady, making pars on the first seven holes before converting a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole. A bogey on the ninth dropped Humphrey back to even-par, but he made up for it with a birdie on the 10th to get back to one-under. After reeling off four straight pars on holes 12-15, the Lodi resident traded scores with a bogey on No. 16 and a birdie on No. 18 to post a one-under 71.
“I drove the ball well, hit almost every green in regulation and was never really in trouble, so that made a big difference,” said Humphrey.
Humphrey, who won two NCGA majors in 2012, is looking for his third major in the last 12 months. This one would stand out from the other two though as his other wins were in team competitions, winning the Four-Ball Championship with James Watt and the Master Division Four-Ball with Jeff Hoffman. He’ll have plenty of competition though as he’ll be paired with three of the four players, who are only one shot behind.
The early clubhouse leader was Giovani Ayong of Stockton. Ayong’s 72 included an eagle, two birdies and four bogeys. The 38-year-old, who started off No. 10 tee, opened up with a birdie but gave it right back on No. 12 to shoot an even-par 36 over the first nine holes. He started off his second nine with a birdie on No. 1, but once again gave it right back on the second hole. The highlight of his round was holing it out from the fairway on the 343 yard par-4 fifth for an eagle-2. Bogeys on the sixth and ninth hole prevented the Stockton resident to finish in red numbers.
Danny Paniccia, the 2012 NCGA Valley Amateur Champion, also carded one of the even-par 72s. The 36-year-old got off to a quick start making three birdies in his first six holes (Nos. 1, 5 and 6) before making his first bogey on the ninth hole to go out with 34. The Clovis resident then got to four-under par for the round with birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, but that’s when things started going south. Paniccia would finish with four bogeys over the final six holes (Nos. 12, 13, 15 and 17) to come in with a 38 for an even-par 72.
Austin Roberts, who was paired with Paniccia, reversed roles with the mid-amateur as he opened with a 38 on the front-nine, but finished with a 34 on the back-nine to shoot even-par 72. On the front-nine the 21-year-old had three bogeys (Nos. 2, 4 and 8) and one birdie (No. 5), while he had three birdies (Nos. 10, 11 and 18) and one bogey (No. 15) on the back nine.
Mark Mallin, the last of the four to fire an even-par 72, had three birdies and three bogeys in his round. Beginning on No. 10 tee Mallin made birdies on Nos. 13 and 18, while bogeying No. 15 for a 35. On the front nine he made bogeys on Nos. 2 and 5, while converting a birdie on No. 7 for a 37.
Also in contention and finding themselves in the penultimate group are Nick Moore, Matthew Yount and Joshua Stone. Moore is alone in sixth place after a one-over par 73, while Yount and Stone are tied for seventh at two-over par 74. Defending champion Trent Tessler finished at six-over par 78 and is currently in a tie for 25th place.