VALDOSTA, Ga. -- With a field that includes 35 former PGA TOUR winners, Monday Qualifier Paul Dickinson emerged as the unlikely leader after the first round of the inaugural $600,000 South Georgia Classic, the sixth of 32 events on the 2007 Nationwide Tour schedule.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|PAUL DICKINSON THRU 18 HOLES|
A 30-year-old native of Long Island, N.Y., Dickinson fired an 8-under-par 64 to take a two-stroke lead over seven-time PGA TOUR winner John Huston and Dave Rummells, while Jason Enloe and Scott Parel sit three shots back.
"I haven't played this well in awhile," said Dickinson, who hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. "I don't remember when I've rolled it this well. Hopefully I'll keep it going the rest of the week."
Dickinson, a former golf standout at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to put an exclamation mark on a round that featured eight birdies and no bogeys. Of those eight birdies, five were of relative ease at 10 feet or less.
"It was one of those days where I basically made everything I looked at," said Dickinson, who ended the day needing just 25 putts. "I played a practice round on Tuesday and I couldn't really find any birdie holes. But somehow I found eight of them today."
Birdies have been few and far between for Dickinson the last few years. After playing his only season on the Nationwide Tour in 2003 -- with a career-best T17 at the Virginia Beach Open among his eight made cuts in 17 starts that year -- Dickinson has struggled since on the mini-tours. With his game heading south last spring, he actually gave the game up temporarily to work as an insurance salesman. Six months later, he joined the NGA Hooters Tour Winter Series to give the game one more try.
"I was at a crossroads last year where I almost gave the game up for good," said Dickinson. "I wasn't playing well and my sponsor backed out on me. The time off turned out to be the key, though. It taught me I have to work harder and persevere through the bad times. It kicked me in the rear when I saw the alternative of working for someone else from 9 to 5. I quickly realized that would not be too much fun."
Dickinson seems to be enjoying the challenge of playing the Davis Love III-designed Kinderlou Forest Golf Club -- which at 7,781 yards is the longest course to ever host a PGA TOUR-sponsored event.
"There is not much rough out here so there isn't as much of a premium on straight driving," said Dickinson. "Obviously length helps. I'm not a long hitter so I'll rely on long irons chasing up to the hole. Also, I don't have many scoring clubs so I have to putt well this week. The greens are a lot faster than I see on the mini-tours."
First Round News & Notes: John Kimbell opened with a 4-under 68 and is one of five players tied for sixth place. Kimbell is familiar with Kinderlou Forest, having won here at the 2006 Langdale Ford Championship on the NGA Hooters Tour ... Four former U.S. Amateur champions are competing this week, led by 1999 winner David Gossett with a 3-under 69. The others didn't fare as well, as 2003 champion Nick Flanagan and 2002 winner Ricky Barnes opened with matching 2-over 74s, while 2001 champion Bubba Dickerson struggled to a 5-over 77 ... Paul Dickinson (64), Dave Rummells (66) and Jeff Hull (68) posted the only bogey-free rounds on Thursday ... The scoring average during the first round was 73.192. The toughest hole was the par-4 third hole with a 4.340 average, yielding just six birdies on the day. The par-5 11th hole ranked the easiest at 4.840.
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