Potter, Piller share first-round lead at BMW Pro-Am

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Fabian Gomez is one stroke off the lead after shooting 64 at the Thornblade Club Thursday.
May 13, 2010
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR Staff

Greenville, S.C. -- Floridian Ted Potter Jr. and second-leading money winner Martin Piller share the first-round lead after posting 64s Thursday at the Carolina Country Club. They are both 8 under. Trailing by one stroke are Argentina's Fabian Gomez and former college player of the year Kevin Chappell, who shot 64s at the Thornblade Club. They are 7 under.


Potter reeled off nine birdies and just one bogey in shooting his 8-under round. It was the Ocala, Fla. native's career-low round on the Nationwide Tour, bettering his previous best by four shots. The 26-year-old Potter is a tournament leader for the first time in this his 45th Nationwide Tour start. His best finish is a tie for 12th in Panama in 2007. He is making his first start of 2010.

"I've been playing in some Monday qualifiers just to keep busy," he said. "I'm happy to be here and give it a chance."

This was only the second time in Potter's Nationwide Tour career that he has posted an opening-round score in the 60s. His previous low to start was a 68 at the 2007 Melwood Prince George's County Open.

"Some days you get hot and others you just shoot one or two-under," he said after missing only one green in regulation. "I'm just going into each shot and picking a target. When you're hitting the ball good it seems like it's easy to do. With every birdie I made I felt like I could make another one. That's what helped me go low today."

Gomez of Chaco, Argentina recorded a bogey-free 7-under-par 64 at the host Thornblade Club in Greenville. He won his first Nationwide Tour event in March, the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, and is currently fourth on the Nationwide Tour money list. A runner-up in the BMW Charity Pro-Am last year to Michael Sim in a playoff, Gomez hit 11 of 13 fairways and 16 of 18 greens while taking only 28 putts.

"I made seven birdies but I also missed several good chances at birdies," Gomez said. "The longest birdie putt I made was only 15 feet. It was on the verge of being a really good round."

Chappell, 24, finished birdie-par-birdie at Thornblade Club. The Fresno native who claimed the Jack Nicklaus Award as college golf's top male player in 2008 had eight birdies and one bogey. Chappell is a 2010 tournament winner having captured the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae in the San Francisco area in April. He is currently third on the money list.

"I played good, real good," Chappell said. "I don't think I missed a green other than on the first hole when the ball rolled over the back edge. I had a lot of opportunities and that's what I'm trying to make as the theme of the week. On these golf courses you're going to have a lot of shots from 150 to 130 yards. That's where a lot of the tee shots end up. It's almost like looking at those as up-and-down opportunities and I guess I did a good job getting up and down today from those yardages."

Piller snuck into the picture with his birdie-eagle finish at Carolina Country Club. The Texas A&M graduate finished 8-under shooting 31 on his incoming nine. Piller is seeking to snatch the top money spot away from his former A&M teammate/roommate Bobby Gates who is playing this week's PGA TOUR event in San Antonio on a sponsor's exemption. The 24-year-old won the Nationwide Tour's last event, the Stadion Athens (Ga.) Classic, to jump to No. 2. He currently trails Gates by $28,497.

"I'm happy that Bobby is at the Valero Texas Open this week, it gives me a chance to pass him on the money list," said Piller, who closed his day with three birdies and an eagle on his final six holes. "I'm trying not to be complacent and play with a sense of urgency. I don't want to allow myself to cruise from tournament to tournament, not pushing myself."

The BMW Charity Pro-Am is one the Nationwide Tour's oldest and most popular events. The celebrity pro-am features 168 professionals paired with one of 25 celebrities or other amateur contestants over three courses in Greenville, Spartanburg, S.C. and nearby Mill Spring, N.C.

Chappell is embracing the tournament's pro-am format. "It's nice this week to have a pro-am partner.I want him to play well and enjoy himself as much as he wants me to play well. I'm trying to help him get it around and that keeps my mind off of what I'm doing for a while. It helps me tone down my intensity quite a bit and allows me to embrace what we're doing out here. I can make some great connections with my amateur partners, meet some great people and really enjoy the whole tournament atmosphere."

First-Round Notes

• Ryan Armour's 8-under-par 28 on the back nine (his front nine) at Carolina Country Club was the third 28 of the year. He tied the low nine-hole score in tournament history. Earlier this year Kevin Kisner and Michael Clark II both shot seven-under-par 28s in the Panama CLARO Championship and the Fresh Market Classic at TPC Stonebrae, respectively. The nine-hole record on the Nationwide Tour is 27 (Notah Begay III and Doug Dunakey, both in 1998). Armour stumbled to a 38 on his second nine to shoot 66 (T5).

• Armour also equaled the best birdie/eagle streak of the year by going birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle on holes 15-18. Five other players have played four holes in 5-under this year. "These are probably the best combination of greens we'll play all year. They're so pure," Armour said. "When you come out here, you know you have to go low and I'm happy to post a good number today. It could've been better but I'm happy with the round."

• Playing in his second Nationwide Tour event this year as a professional contestant, Jerry Rice had a rough day at Carolina Country Club. The soon-to-be-inducted Pro Football Hall of Fame member shot 49-43-92.

• Leading the pro-celebrity portion of the tournament at 13-under par are the teams of Chris Kirk/Fred Mercer (Carolina CC) and Ted Potter/Craig Helsing (Carolina CC). The teams of Martin Piller/Brad Skelton (Carolina CC) and Fabian Gomez/Jennifer Mills (Thornblade Club) are next at 12 under.

• Players with area connections: Mark Anderson (USC), 73/T119; Tommy Biershenk (Boiling Springs/Clemson); Brian Duncan (Clemson), 76/T155; Alex Hamilton (USC), 69/T26; William McGirt (Boiling Springs/Wofford), 70/T45; Phillip Mollica (Clemson), 72/T94; Stephen Poole (Spartanburg/Clemson), 69/T26; Kyle Stanley (Clemson), 69/T26; and Kyle Thompson (USC), 69/T26.

• Duncan had the roller-coaster round of the day...31-45-76.