First round leader John McClure
(Trans-Miss Golf Photo)
CAREFREE, AZ (May 15, 2018) - A calm and confident John McClure was in complete control of his golf ball Tuesday during the first round of the 2018 Trans-Miss Senior & Mid-Master Championship at Desert Forest Golf Club. As a result, he holds a one-shot lead over a stacked Senior Division field with a 3-under-par-69 that could’ve been even better.
McClure, a Trans-Miss Director who finished sixth at last year’s championship and T2 in 2016, hit all 18 fairways and 14 greens to make it around the challenging Desert Forest layout with just one bogey.
“The key was driving it in the fairway,” said McClure, who leads Brady Exber of Las Vegas by one and Jeff New of Scottsdale, Ariz., by two shots. “I didn’t hit it far, but I hit it straight.”
McClure got his round going with a 20-foot birdie at the 408-yard, par-4 second hole. He made two more on the sixth and seventh holes before missing two short birdie chances on the eighth and ninth holes.
“I had good speed all day with my putter,” said McClure, the 2017 Crump Cup champion who in April played for the victorious U.S. team in the 2018 Concession Cup. “Missing those two short ones on eighth and nine screwed me up. There’s always ‘ifs and buts,’ but I could’ve shot 5-under on the front pretty easy.”
The rest of the 76-player field in the Senior Division is glad he didn’t, including Exber, a veteran senior competitor who won the 2014 Senior British Amateur. The Las Vegas resident put together a round of 2-under 70 that included five birdies in a nine-hole stretch.
“I just stayed really patient,” said Exber, who is playing in his first Trans-Miss Championship. “This is a tough golf course with difficult greens. You’re probably going to get three or four good looks [at birdie] a round. I just stayed patient more than anything, and they just started coming.”
Two shots behind McClure is New, who won this championship in 2015. Mike McCoy, the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Norwalk, Iowa, shares fourth place with Chuck Palmer from Dallas at 1-over 73.
For the first time in this championship’s 19-year run, the Trans-Miss in February added a new division for amateurs ages 40 and older. The Mid-Master Division was met with widespread support and unanimous praise from competitors and amateur golf fans alike.
Through the first 18 holes, Chris Kamin from nearby Phoenix shares the Mid-Master Division lead at 2-over 74 with Brad Wayment from Mesa, Ariz. Kamin rolled in two birdies on the front nine, but when a tee shot got away from him on the par-4 sixth, it led to a triple-bogey.
Kamin found his groove again on the back nine. He came in bogey-free with a birdie on the 415-yard finishing hole to post 74.
Wayment made the turn at 1-under thanks to birdies on the par-4 fourth and sixth holes. Three consecutive bogeys in the middle of his back nine sent Wayment back into black numbers.
One shot back in the 16-player Mid-Master Division is Mark Mance from Whitefish, Mont. Like Wayment, Mance played his first nine holes at 1-under. A string of bogeys from Hole 12 through 15 tarnished the progress he made earlier in the day. Mance posted 3-over 75 to put himself in contention with 36 holes to play.
Jason Coolik from Atlanta and Robert Funk from Canyon Lake, Calif., are tied for fourth place at 4-over 76. Funk was the Low Amateur at the 2017 U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club.
In the Super Senior Division (ages 65+), two Californians share the lead. Jim Knoll from Sunnyvale and Jeff Burda from La Quinta both shot 2-over 74s to lead their 24-player division. Knoll rolled in three birdies on the day; Burda, who won the Senior Division title in 2014, had two birdies in the first round.
Knoll and Burda head into the second round with a two-shot advantage over a pair of fellow competitors from the Golden State. Mike Gustafson from La Quinta and Gary Hardin Carlsbad are tied for third place at 4-over 76. Mike Quinlan from Albuquerque, N.M., is in fifth place at 5-over 77.
In the Legends Division (70+), three players are tied for the first round lead. David Rasley from Payson, Ariz., and a pair of Desert Forest members – Philip Svanoe from Carefree, Ariz., and Dick Baker from St. Could, Minn. – all came in with 4-over 76s to lead the 18-player division.
A pair of Texans share second place in the Legends Division. Two-time defending champion Jim Martin from Dallas and Sam Boyd from Horseshoe Bay posted 8-over 80s. Four more players are tied for sixth place at 10-over 82.
The first true desert course in America, Desert Forest was built in 1963 for only $250,000 by Robert “Red” Lawrence. Appropriately nicknamed the “True Desert Original,” the course sits perched 2,750 feet above sea level adjacent to local landmark Black Mountain. A shot-maker’s track, Desert Forest demands accuracy off the tee and even more precision with shots into and around the large, fast and undulated greens.
“It’s tough to get the ball close to hole,” said Head Professional Brandon Rogers. “If you short-side yourself, getting up-and-done becomes very difficult. You’re better off being on the front edge of the green than being pin-high right or left if you miss the green.”
The par-72 old school gem is not just a golf-centric club. It’s golf exclusive. You won’t find a swimming pool or tennis courts. It’s all golf, all the time. Much of the membership enjoys playing the game in its original spirit, too. About 35 percent of the rounds are played are walked.
To that end, Rogers, now in his 20th year as the Head Pro, has worked to build up a Junior Caddie Program. Rogers pays local high school students $35 per round plus tips to caddie at Desert Forest. There are about 30-40 caddies in the program currently, working weekends and developing long-lasting relationships with the members.
The club also has a rich history of hosting amateur championships, including the 2006 Trans-Miss Four-Ball, 2007 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and 1990 U.S. Senior Amateur.