Courtesy of The Town Talk Written by: Bob Tompkins
Mark Walker experimented with a handful of drivers on the practice range, then fashioned a 7-under-par 65 to grab the first-round lead of the Coca-Cola Walmart Open on a windy Wednesday at OakWing Golf Club.
The 43-year-old Walker, of Hurst, Texas, who won this tournament in 2008, takes a two-stroke lead into today's second round of the season-opening tournament of the Adams Pro Golf Tour.
Former OakWing assistant pro Chad Ginn (2006-11) of Tylertown, Miss., and Andrew Landry of Baton Rouge are tied for second at 67.
"I played pretty solid," said Walker, who had seven birdies, including all four of the par-5 holes. He landed wedge shots close for two other birdies and made an 18-foot putt for birdie at No. 6.
Walker, 43, had a strong finish to win this event in 2008 with a 20-under-par total, and with the tournament being in April of that year, it was his second straight victory on the tour.
Walker, who got three wins on the now defunct National Golf Tour over the last two years, hit 16 greens in regulation Wednesday.
"I hit my short irons pretty good," said Walker. "My driver was sporadic."
Hurst, who broke a driver three days before the second stage of Tour Qualifying School last November, said, "I'm tinkering with drivers. I hit about four drivers at the range. I feel pretty fortunate I shot what I did."
Ginn's driver, meanwhile, has been retooled.
"John Nobles at Tee It Up Golf took an old shaft from an old driver and put it in the head I've been using," said Ginn. "It worked pretty well today."
Ginn countered two bogeys with seven birdies, including four on the first nine. His three birdies on the back were putts from 15-20 feet at holes 10, 14 and 16. He liked the distance he got on his irons, especially when hitting into "steady 15 mph winds."
Ginn and Walker, veterans of play at OakWing, said the greens were in the best shape they could remember, even though the course hasn't fully emerged from its winter dormant stage.
Included in a logjam of golfers at 68 are Bobby Massa of Tyler, Texas, and Zachariah Potter of Wichita, Kans., who were the early leaders after the more chilly morning rounds. Both are in their second season on the tour.
Massa, 25, said the key to his round was getting tap-in birdies on all the par-5 holes at the OakWing course, which measures 7,043 yards from the black tees. Potter, who tied for second in the Adams PGT event at Beaumont, Texas last year, birdied three of the four par-5 holes and drained a couple of long putts, including a 25-footer on the third hole.
"That was nice because I had a bad bogey at (hole) 2," Potter said. "It was good to get the momentum back."
Brian Rowell of Lafayette, the tour player of the year last year, shot a first-round 70. Former PGA Tour winner David Gossett (2001 John Deere Classic) shot a 71.
The field of 120 will be cut after today's round to the top 35 percent and ties for the final two rounds Friday and Saturday.