Jordan Burks, the 2019 champion, opened his title defense Saturday with a 3-under-par 68 to claim the first-round lead in the Joplin Area Championship at Schifferdecker Municipal Golf Course.
Burks holds a one-stroke lead over Tug Baker, and a three-way tie for third at 70 involves Phillip Roller, Greg Crawford and Garrett Stallings. Nate Neel and Erin Campbell matched par-71.
In the seniors division, Kyle Catron grabbed the lead at 4-under 67, followed by Steve Watts at 68, defending champion Bill Curry at 69 and Lowell Catron at 70. Dave Pawlus, Gene Smith, Jeff Murphy and Keith Reardon shot 71.
Today's final round is at Briarbrook Golf Course, and tee times start at 10 a.m.
In addition to individual awards, this tournament determines members of the Joplin teams for next month's Horton Smith and Ky Laffoon Cup matches against Springfield.
Burks, who mounted a second-round comeback to win last year's crown, shot 34-34 with four birdies and a lone bogey on the par-3 ninth hole. He birdied the third, sixth and seventh holes to make the turn at 2-under, and he carded eight pars and a birdie-3 on 14 on the back.
Baker also had one bogey — the par-4 eighth hole — in his round of 36-33. His birdies came on Nos. 1, 14 and 16.
Stallings shot 35-35 with three birdies and two bogeys, and Roller shot 36-34 with four birdies and three bogeys.
Kyle Catron sank seven birdies during his round of 34-33 to take the lead in the seniors division. He made birdie on 1, 3, 6, 8 on the front nine but gave two shots back with bogeys on 2 and 9. Moving to the back he birdied 10, 15 and 18 and bogeyed 13.
Watts was at level par through 13 holes — birdies on 2 and 3 offset by bogeys on 5 and 11 — but he birdied 14, 16 and 18 to move into second place.
Curry, who won last year by two shots, shot 35-34 with six birdies — 1, 3, 5, 6, 16 and 17. His bogeys came on 2 and the par-5 18th, and he double-bogeyed No. 8.
Lowell Catron had six birdies and four bogeys in his 35-35 round. He birdied the first, third and seventh holes and bogeyed Nos. 6 and 9. A roller-coaster back nine saw him make only one par in the first seven holes — birdie on 10, bogeys on 11 and 12, birdies on 14 and 15 and bogey on 16.