Switch to belly putter pays dividends for Tolles

August 07, 2008
Mark Williams, PGA TOUR Staff

WICHITA, Kan. -- In the 19-year history of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open, play has been suspended eleven times. Today was one of them.


A line of thunderstorms passed over the Crestview Country Club and play was suspended at 10:15 a.m. At the time, Tommy Tolles, who started on the back nine, held the lead at 6-under through 12 holes, largely thanks to playing holes 15-18 in 4-under-par.

"I was hoping the weather would skirt around us," said the 41-year-old Tolles. "I'm getting older, so I came in for a nap."

When play resumed at 1 p.m., Tolles added two more birdies and finished with a bogey-free, 9-under-par 62, one-stroke shy of the tournament record low round.

Bob May, from Las Vegas, is a stroke further back at 8-under 63.

"It was a solid round of golf," said May, who hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. "Nothing great, but nothing bad."

Scott Gardiner and Chris Anderson are tied for fourth, along with two former Wichita Open champions, Joe Daley (2005) and Jeff Klauk (2003), after 7-under 64s.

Twenty-four players have yet to complete the first round including Aaron Watkins, a 26-year-old from Mesa, Ariz., who played golf at Kansas State University. Watkins started his round at the 10th hole, shot 29 (-7) for his first nine holes, and was 8-under through 14 holes when play was suspended due to darkness at 8.25pm.

Play will resume at 7:15 a.m. Friday.

Tolles, from Hendersonville, N.C., was asked if he remembered last year's opening round (65) and whether he had an affinity for this course.

"I remember the round, yes - and no, the course doesn't suit me. "I've spent my entire life trying to hit the ball straight and there are more doglegs here than our last three venues combined."

A major hurdle for Tolles has been his putter, which he readily admits has let him down the past couple of years. This week he switched to a belly putter which he used for the first time in the pro-am.

"In Columbus, if I had putted as good as I think I can putt, the tournament would have been over," said Tolles, referring to his tie for third, two-strokes back, at the recent Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. "I had the opportunity and I blew it."

Tolles had his 15-year-old son, Wiekus, caddie for him recently, but this week, Colton Delaney, the son of Nationwide Tour Official Matt Delaney, took over the role.

"Colton's twelve - when you hit a bad shot he's just happy you got it in the air. All he wants is a club so he can clean it. I want to break it. You look up and see a smile on his face and it takes your worries away."

Delaney is keeping it simple.

"If he needs something I'll go get it for him," said the youngster. "I'm excited to see how he plays tomorrow."

First Round News & Notes: Ben Bates (67), Mike Standly (76) and Esteban Toledo (72) are the only three players in the field who contested the inaugural Wichita Open in 1990, won by Tom Lehman. Bates missed the cut in 1990 while Standly tied for 16th and Toledo tied for 24th...Standly has not played in Wichita since the inaugural event where his T16 earned $1,575. A 16th place finish this week is worth $8,925...Jeff Klauk (64), the 2003 champion, made his first appearance here in 2002. His total earnings in Wichita are $138,638...Zoran Zorkic(68) made eagles at the 14th and 18th holes...Preferred lies are in effect for the opening two rounds...Upon completion of his round, Tyler Aldrige (72) learned his wife, Kyla, had given birth to a son, Chandler, at 1:30 p.m., while he was on the course...David Gossett (71) began the round with a triple-bogey at No. 1 and finished with an eagle...There are seven past Wichita Open champions in the field...Spike McRoy and P.H. Horgan III did not start...Wichita is one of four cities to have hosted Nationwide Tour events every year since the Tour's inception in 1990, joined by Boise, Idaho, Knoxville, Tenn., and Springfield, Mo.