Palma Ceia CC (Photo: Gasparilla.com)
As is the case every year at the Gasparilla, Palma Ceia Country Club giveth and it taketh away. Its diminutive stature on the scorecard does not always translate to low scores. During round one, a bevy of players flirted with touching the sun, but many were quickly sent back down to Earth.
, from Lakeland, Fla, is currently flying the highest after a five-under 65. Blondell steadily climbed the leader board during his round, reaching the top with a closing birdie on the 15th hole.
The afternoon started the same way as it ended for Blondell, with a birdie. However, when he came to the fifth hole, his eighth of the day, he was stuck in neutral at one-under par. At this point, only a few players in the afternoon wave were scoring better than Blondell. It turns out, Blondell was just warming up; he went on to birdie holes 5, 6, 11, 12, and 15 to soar into solo first place.
"I hit a lot of drivers on holes that you might not in the morning. It was good to be in the afternoon wave," Blondell said following his round.
Blondell is no stranger to Palma Ceia.
"I've been playing out here in junior tournaments since I was six years old," Blondell said. "I played in the state junior here when I was a kid. So I've played here a bunch."
Sitting alone in second place, one stroke behind Blondell is Derek Busby
who recorded the low score in the morning shotgun start with a 66. Beginning his round on the first hole, the Louisiana native had an auspicious start, collecting three birdies on holes 1-3. The middle section of the golf course produces the most challenge to the players. Busby settled into a groove with 10 straight pars from holes 7-16. He capped the day off with back-to-back birdies on 17 and 18.
Four players sit at 3-under par: Marc Dull
, Will Davenport
, Rick Sulzer
, and Blanton Farmer
Marc Dull’s scorecard did not match his surname, he carded seven birdies, including three in a row on holes 2 ,3, and 4. As Palma Ceia tends to do, however, it doled out four bogeys to the man from Winter Haven, Fla.
Rick Sulzer flirted with the low round of the day. He started on the tenth hole and came to the seventh tee at five-under par, but bogeys on the seventh and eighth holes dropped him back to third place.
Farmer and Davenport both made six birdies and three bogeys on their way to their 67s.
For a brief moment, Kyle Stiles
seemed primed to make his mark at Palma Ceia. He played his opening twelve holes in six-under par, but a tough closing stretch with six straight bogeys one holes 1-6 dropped him back to even par.
In our preview podcast with Chris Solomon spoke about how tough Palma Ceia can become when things turn sour.
“If you take on the risk and hit the shot, this golf course can seem really easy," he said. "But the second your eyes start looking around a little bit and you start thinking, ‘That’s an OB stake right there. If I miss there I’m in trouble,’ it will just bleed you to death.”
In the senior division, defending senior champion Brian Keenan
and https://www.amateurgolf.com/Rankings/30253/Tim-Peterson?p=1 both shot 69 to share the first round lead. Keenan’s birdies on holes nine and eleven were wiped out by a lone bogey on the seventh hole. Peterson had a busier round with birdies on holes two, six, and thirteen and bogeys on the eighth and twelfth holes.
"Hit it great today. I only wiggled a couple in," Keenan said. "Any time under par around here you can't be too unhappy."
The senior division is shaping up to be a great battle, as ten players are either one or shots shots behind the leaders.
Billy Mitchell, a senior competitor said in a text exchange, “The greens were a little slower than I’ve experienced at Palma Ceia. The wind was very manageable but laid down in the afternoon.”
In round two, the players will be battling the golf course and the cut line as they hop to stick around for the third and final round on Saturday.
ABOUT THE Gasparilla Invitational
54-hole individual stroke play championship
cut after 36 holes to the low 60 and ties. Good
and national competitors looking for an
tune up. Played on a traditional, tree lined
course that isn't very long but has small,
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