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Vernon goes low, takes early ATB Classic lead

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Vernon goes low, takes early ATB Classic lead

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    SHERWOOD PARK, Alberta—Carr Vernon shot the lowest round of the year on PGA TOUR Canada on Thursday to take a one-shot lead after the opening day of the ATB Classic.

    Vernon, of Poplar Bluff, Missouri, opened with a 9-under 63 on the Northern Bear Golf Course. The score was a career low in Vernon’s 66 rounds, who is competing in his 23rd career PGA TOUR Canada event. His is also the lowest score of the season relative to par.

    “I felt good coming into this week,” Vernon said. “I didn’t play well last week, but I got here and had good vibes about the place in general. I hadn’t putted that well in the last couple weeks, but today I made a lot of putts. It’s one of those days for sure, and I’m taking what I can get.”

    Monday qualifier, Davis Lamb, of Bethesda, Maryland, had two eagles on his card and shot a career-low, 8-under 64. Tied for third at 7-under 65 are Canadian Noah Steele of Kingston, Ontario, Nicolo Galletti of Berkeley, California, and Hayden Shieh of Fremont, California.

    The five-way tie for fifth at 6-under 66 is Derek Hitchner of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Thomas Longbella of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, Tyler Strafaci of Miami, Florida, Australian Jack Trent, and Devon Bling of Ridgecrest, California, in the pursuit of the season-long Fortinet Cup.

    Vernon, who played at California State-Monterey Bay, birdied the first two holes and the last two holes of his first nine to shoot 32. After a birdie at No. 10, he strung together four in a row, from No. 13-16. He did not make a bogey.

    “I made a lot of speed-up putts today,” Vernon said. “Not all of them you expect to make, a couple of them from 30 feet-plus, so it’s definitely nice to have them.”

    Lamb, who played at Notre Dame, eagled his first hole (No. 10) with a chip-in from the right side and eagled his seventh, the 404-yard par-4 16th, by holing out from 86 yards—a shot that skipped a foot past the hole and drew back in. He shot 29 on the first nine.

    “It was pretty good,” Lamb said. “(After the eagle) we knew we had something going, and it was important to keep it going the rest of the day. I had to stay focused and would have liked for a few more putts to drop late in the round, but I’ll always take an 8-under.”

    Shieh, sporting a Masters hat on the Jack Nicklaus-designed venue, and Hitchner played in the same group and drew energy from each other. Shieh had one eagle, six birdies and one bogey. Hitchner had six birdies. They only birdied the same hole once, and their best-ball round would have been 13-under.

    “It’s fun when two guys are playing all right,” Shieh said. “We were chatting about stuff throughout the round. Keep it as calm as you can, and good things can happen.”

    Did you know?

    Nicolo Galletti, who is tied for third, was Jon Rahm’s roommate when they played together at Arizona State University? Galletti’s father was born in Italy, came to America in his 20s and designed men’s clothes for his own fashion company before retiring in the 2010s.

    Key Information

    Fortinet Cup Standings

    (Through Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open presented by Brandt)

    Pos.PlayerPointsCurrent Tournament Pos.
    1Étienne Papineau (Canada)517T44
    2John Pak (United States)500T83
    3Chris Korte (United States)490T44
    4George Kneiser (United States)283T68
    5Connor Howe (United States)267T11
    6Sam Choi (United States)231T44
    7Jared du Toit (Canada)125T11
    8Wilson Andress (United States)123T149
    9Cole Bradley (United States)118T16
    10Chris Francoeur (United States)117T151

    Twenty-eight Canadians are playing this week at the ATB Classic. The top performer through 18 holes is Noah Steele, at 7-under and two strokes off the lead.

    Carr Vernon qualified for PGA TOUR Canada by tying for second at the final Q-School, in Courtenay, British Columbia, the week before the regular season began. Vernon turned professional in 2016 after leading California State-Monterey Bay to three NCAA Division II championship appearances in four seasons.

    Zihao Jin of China made the first albatross on PGA TOUR Canada since 2019 in the opening round at No. 6, the 535-yard par-5. He had 237 yards to the hole location and chose a hybrid for his approach. “I hit a perfect, beautiful high cut that took the slope and trickled in. There were two fans behind the green that saw it go in and I kind of saw it disappear, too. I was pretty excited,” Jin said. It was the first double eagle in competition for Jin, who gave the ball to one of the fans. Charlie Kern recorded the last albatross on PGA TOUR Canada, at the 2019 HFX Pro-Am presented by Steele Jaguar.

    Four players have shot 8-under on PGA TOUR Canada this season: George Kneiser and Stephen Franken at the Royal Beach Victoria Open, Sam Choi at the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open and Davis Lamb at the ATB Classic. Carr Vernon’s 63 was the first 9-under score posted this season.

    Long-hitting Charlie Reiter had three birdies and an eagle on his round, which was slowed by a pair of bogeys on the back nine. Reiter missed the cut in the first two PGA TOUR Canada events and spent a lot of time exchanging videos of his swing with coach George Gankas. “Something clicked on the range last week, and I’ve been grinding it out this week so it’s working well,” Reiter said.

    Thomas Longbella hit his opening tee shot at No. 10 in the right rough, found the missing ball with 30 seconds left to spare before he would have incurred a penalty, and hacked it across the fairway into more rough. He responded by hitting a wedge from 152 yards to within four feet and made birdie. “So, I started off weird—but great,” Longbella said.

    Canadian Noah Steele had an “accidental” eagle on the 10th hole. He had planned to hit a 3-iron off the tee but switched to a driver and was left with 174 yards to the hole location. His approach shot landed eight feet away and it rolled in. “I actually wasn’t planning on playing that hole quite as aggressively,” he said.

    Fortinet Cup points leader Etienne Papineau, of Quebec, shot 32 on the front nine. But the wheels came off with a triple bogey at No. 12 and a bogey at No. 13. Papineau finished at 2-under 70 and is tied for 44th.

    John Pak, who won last week’s Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open, shot even-par 72 and is tied for 83rd.

    Kye Fisher, the 18-year-old who received an exemption for winning the Maple Leaf Junior Tour tournament at Northern Bear Golf Club, hung in there with his elders. The Leduc, Alberta, native shot a 2-over 74.

    Monday qualifier Brendan Leonard of Cambridge, Ontario, shot a 4-under 68 and is tied for 16th. Leonard tied for 16th at the season-opening Royal Beach Victoria Open.

    There were 95 players who shot par or better at the 7,352-yard Northern Bear Golf Club. There were 43 players who scored in the 60s.


    “(The course) is definitely wider than the last few places, so it frees me up mentally with my driver. But other than that, it’s kind of cut-favored, which is like Jack Nicklaus-designed stuff. I like it because it’s working out pretty well.” – Charlie Reiter

    “I had been putting in the work the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, I didn’t play well but kind of figured something out. Then I birdied No. 10 and No. 11 (his first two holes) and I’m thinking this could be a good day.” – Charlie Reiter

    “I made everything I looked at, to be honest. I missed a couple greens, but it was just one of those days where I was getting the right lines and the greens were nice and fast. (I was) able to start them on line and pour them in.” – Hayden Shieh

    “(Hayden Shieh) put on one of the more impressive putting performances I’ve probably ever seen. Just seeing the ball go in that often I think helps me by extension, just to know those putts are going in if you hit them well.” -- Derek Hitchner

    “Most Jack Nicklaus courses got left to right because he’s a cutter, and this is actually one of the few I’ve seen that everything goes right to left. So when I saw that, I was pretty happy coming in here, and I knew I would be comfortable off the tee. I knew it was going to suit me very well.” – Nicolo Galletti

    “I was really calm all day and stayed patient and just kept putting the ball in the right spots. Off the tee I got a couple of good lies in the rough that I was able to manage but hit good shots into the greens and rolled the putter pretty well.” – Noah Steele

    “It felt like playing in a dome today. Very unusual for any afternoon anywhere, so it was good to capitalize on that and hope can keep it going [Friday] morning.” – Davis Lamb

    First-Round Weather: Mostly cloudy and warm. High of 27. Wind SSE at 7-9 kph.

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