The Duncan Banner
Defending champions Aaron Simpson and Jamie Gray maintained the pace that helped them win the title a year ago to grab the first round lead in the 85th annual Labor Day Golf Invitational here Saturday at the Duncan Golf and Tennis Club.
Simpson and Gray turned in a blistering 14-under par 57 on a hot, windless morning round for a three-shot lead in the two-man scramble format.
Starting on Hole No. 2, the duo had six birdies on the front side and eight on the backside for the lead over runner-up teams Tanner Harman-Joe Morales and Michael Hodges-Jason Hodges.
“They did what they were supposed to do,” PGA pro and general manager Mike Hansen said of the favored leaders. “It didn’t bother them that others expected them to play well. They play enough competitive golf that being favored isn’t a problem.
“They were exceptionally solid on the back side with eight birdies. It was a really nice round of golf.”
Hansen, in his third year overseeing the tournament, admitted play in Friday’s horse races and Saturday’s opening round went about as smoothly as possible.
Play started and finished on time. Morning rounds Saturday took between four hours and 10 minutes to four hours and a half. Only the searing heat that kept temperatures above 100 degrees most of the day was a hindrance.
Leaders stayed bunched in the lower flights.
The teams of Don Rice-Tyler Rice and Jeff Elroy-Chris Staats both shot eight-under 63s to share the A Flight lead. Seven teams are two shots back at 65.
Three teams shot seven under 64s for a share of the B Flight lead. The logjam included Jace Jenkins-Ron Jenkins, Mike Zawicki-Matt Moyer and Heath Edie-Trey Jorski,
Scores of 66 by Todd Mikel-Keith Welsh and Rusty Freel-Randy Freel topped C Flight competition and was a stroke better than the play of Coby Wright-Gary Wright and Barry Byrd-Troy Whitefield.
Four teams turned in rounds of 67 to share the D Flight lead. They were Brian Krieger-Wade Christian, Trent Smith-Darrell Smith, Dustin Holcomb-Mike Walters and Delbert Morrison-Cayden Dobrinski. The teams of Josh Rusche-Chet Mahlow and Bruce Williams-Preston Keck had opening 68s.
No one broke par in the E Flight. Phil Skinner-Bill Bradley had a one-over 72 while David Leonard-Chris Atchley had a 73.
Scores should climb during today’s second round and Monday’s final round, Hansen said.
“Each day gets a little tougher,” he said. “Playing best ball is harder than a scramble and playing a modified alternate shot is even harder.
“It’s going to be a good tournament, though. The course remains in good condition. We’ve had compliments on Interurban Restaurant’s food and service. And everybody seems to be having a good time.”
The tournament, which started in 1928, is Oklahoma’s longest continuous golf tournament.
Steve Daniels-Kevin Whipple, Joe Cunningham-Jamie Mercer and Bill Bradley-Phil Skinner won Friday’s three horse race elimination events.