By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Playing the course for the first time, Matt Petersen fired a 6-under-par 65 Saturday to claim the first-round lead in the annual Ozark Amateur at the Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course.
Petersen, 39-year-old resident of Udall, Kan., began his round with three birdies and closed it with three more birdies. In all, he carded eight birdies and two bogeys during his round of 33-32.
“Ken Carpenter and all the Carpenter boys and the group from across the state line (Kansas) always said I needed to come play in this tournament,” Petersen said. “When it came time to do it, I’d forgotten about it or had other things planned. This year I decided to play.
“I like the layout. The weather was perfect this morning. I’m glad we played in the morning.”
Apparently early morning was the best time to play. Petersen played in the second group off No. 1, and his two closest challengers played two groups behind him.
Shawn Platner, also starting on No. 1, holed three early birdies and two on the final two holes to spice his round of 66. Defending champion Barrett Lais, paired in the fourth group off No. 10, sank four straight birdies midway through his round of 67.
Two past champions — Paul Ashe and Andrew Maier — are tied at 68 along with Lowell Catron.
Former champion Mike Maier is tied at 69 with Evan Wood, Aaron Borland and Ethan Hutcheson, and four-time winner Lou Rapalino is at 70, tied with Nathan Fridley, Kenny Thompson and Trae Fairchild.
Petersen’s birdies on the first three holes all were within three feet, then he three-putted the par-3 fourth hole for bogey, leaving his birdie attempt about 15 feet short.
Petersen holed another short birdie on the par-4 eighth hole, and he almost aced the 164-yard 12th hole for another birdie. He bogeyed the next hole with another three-putt — again leaving his first putt several feet short — then he made short birdies on 16 and 17 before holing his longest birdie of the day — an 18-footer with a two-foot break on 18.
“It was the best round from tee to green that I’ve ever played,” Petersen said. “I hit one bad shot other the two three-putts. I hit one bad teeball (on No. 10) but it wasn’t that bad and I still had a shot into the green. Actually I had a four-footer for birdie and missed it.”
Petersen carries an 8-handicap at Winfield Country Club and said he has been playing quite a bit of golf. He won a member-guest tournament in early June, and he and his partner were sixth in a 54-hole event at Independence, Kan., that included one round of best ball, scramble and alternate shot.
“When I was a member at Fredonia, a shorter course like this, I was anywhere from a 0 to +3 (handicap),” Petersen said. “Now I belong at Winfield where the greens are lightning fast, it’s a long course, and you’re playing about 25-35 mph wind all the time.”
Platner, former Briarbrook Invitational winner, birdied the par-5 first and third holes, the par-4 fifth and the difficult par-3 ninth to make the turn in 32. His back nine started with a bogey on 10, birdie on 11 and another bogey on 13 before he birdied the last two holes.
Lais, the Ozark Amateur champion in 2005 as well as last year, began his round with pars on the first six holes on the back side. But he birdied 16, 17, 18 and No. 1 to drop to 4-under. He bogeyed the third and fourth holes but got those strokes back with birdies on 6 and 8.
Maier, playing in the last group of the day, shot 36-32 with six birdies and three bogeys. Ashe shot 35-33 with four birdies and a bogey, and Catron also had four birdies and a bogey during his round of 33-35.
After the first round, tournament officials split the field into six flights — Championship 65-71, A 72-74, B 75-77, C 78-80, D 81-84 and E 85-above. Today’s final round begins at 7 a.m. The final group tees off at 1:50 p.m.