KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Puppies. That's what it reads in the media guide under "Special Interests" for Nationwide Tour rookie Kyle McCarthy. Puppies?
"We have to fill out those things for every Tour," McCarthy said. "I just like to mess with people sometimes."
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|KYLE MCCARTHY THRU 18 HOLES|
There was no messing around on the golf course Thursday, though, as he shot an 8-under-par 64 in the opening round of the $475,000 Knoxville Open presented by Food City. The 24-year-old topped his best round of the season by seven strokes at one of four events remaining from the original 1990 Nationwide Tour schedule.
"I tried to go with the 'hit it, go find it, hit it again' mentality today," he said. "Sometimes I get too caught up in fairways and greens. I had a calmness about me today. I knew I was going to play well this week."
McCarthy earned his spot on the Nationwide Tour the hard way. He was rookie was the only player to advance from the pre-qualifier, through the first and second rounds and all the way to the final round of last year's PGA TOUR National Qualifying Tournament.
"Just getting to second stage was nice. I signed up for q-school just for the experience," he said. "When I got to the final stage, I kind of thought I had arrived and maybe didn't play with enough fire."
McCarthy's rookie season on the Nationwide Tour has not gone as he had hoped. He has yet to make his first cut and until Thursday, he had yet to shoot a round in the 60s all year. After spending 2005 on the Gateway Tour and 2006 on the Hooters Tour, McCarthy said that he knows he needs to start making cuts if he wants to finish inside "The 25."
McCarthy's bogey-free round included six birdies, an eagle and just 22 putts at the 7,110 yard course at Fox Den Country Club. He credited reading the book "Psycho Psybernetics" for a new attitude on the golf course.
"It talks about the power of positive thinking and if you imagine the end result, then you can get out of the way and let your body bring you towards that end result," he said.
Another rookie on the Nationwide Tour, Michael Sims, finished his round with a 5-under-par 67. Unfortunately, Sims signed a scorecard for a 4-under-par 68 and therefore his official score for Thursday's round is a 68. Had he signed for a lower score than what he actually shot, the University of Rhode Island graduate would have been disqualified.
Sims has worked his way up from the Tour de las Americas, the Canadian Tour, The New England Tour, the Hooters Tour and the Golden Bear Tour to where he is now. He said being on the Nationwide Tour has been challenging, but also a great experience.
"I feel like I'm spoiled this year. The golf courses are great, the ranges are perfect," he said. "Everything we have available to us, I've never had before. Everyone out here is willing to help. It's a huge challenge to do well out here, but it's a great atmosphere, even when you are struggling."
Deane Pappas signed correctly for his afternoon 67 and sits three strokes behind the leader. Pappas shot a 36 on his first nine holes, but finished with a 31 on his back nine as he attempts to make his fourth cut in his last five events.
"I played solid and made a few putts on the back side," he said. "I'm just trying to keep my ball in play, get on the green and see what happens."
The last time McCarthy had a first-round lead was last year on the Hooters Tour, a tournament he went on to win. If he can repeat that performance, the puppy on the Nationwide Tour could quickly become one of the big dogs.
First-Round News & Notes: Kyle McCarthy, Chez Reavie, Michael Sims, Boyd Summerhays and Paul Claxton shot bogey-free rounds. ... Brian Smock eagled the 368-yard par-4 14th hole. Smock also won the GottaLookMedia long-drive competition on Wednesday with a 370-yard drive. ... Jamie Broce withdrew following the round. ... Scoring average for the first round was 73.020, up from 71.808 last year. The most difficult hole on Thursday was the par-3 13th at 166 yards. It played to an average score of 3.321.
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