Wyatt Leads Players Am After First Round

By Justin Jarrett

University of Alabama star Bobby Wyatt backed up his status as one of the top-ranked amateur golfers in the nation by firing a 6-under-par 66 to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the 2012 Players Amateur on Thursday at Berkeley Hall Club.

Florida State's Daniel Berger is one shot behind Wyatt after a 5-under 67, and a group of four golfers are tied for third at 3-under 69.

Wyatt, who is ranked third in the most recent Scratch Players World Amateur Ranking and third in the latest Golfweek/AmateurGolf.com Player Rankings, entered the 13th annual event as one of the highest- profile players in the 82-player field. He is making his Players Amateur debut and says the tournament has lived up to the lofty reputation it has earned.

"This is one of the top (tournaments) that everyone plays," the 19- year-old Wyatt said. "I heard great things about Belfair, and Berkeley Hall, this is awesome. It has one of the best fields year in and year out. I was just glad I was able to come."

Wyatt was far more than just happy to be here Thursday, as he went out in 5-under on the front nine, making birdies and the par-3 third and fifth holes and the par-4 seventh, then closing the blistering first nine with a 25-foot eagle putt at the par-5 ninth. He added birdies at the par-5 12th and par-4 14th before his only stumble of the day, a bogey at the difficult par-4 18th.

"I felt like if I hit it well off the tee I could score out here," Wyatt said. "And fortunately, I was able to do that through the first 14 holes or so. I got off to a great start, for sure."

Berger also got off to a strong start, making four birdies on the front nine and adding a fifth at No. 12 before closing his round with six straight pars for the only bogey-free round of the day.

The Players Amateur has a long list of impressive champions, including PGA Tour players Ben Curtis, Bill Haas, Camilo Villegas, Brian Harman, Rickie Fowler, Mark Anderson and Bud Cauley. The newest addition to that list Sunday will earn an exemption into the RBC Heritage PGA Tour event next April at Harbour Town Golf Links.

"That's definitely a big draw," Wyatt said. "I know that it's just another thing that adds to the great championship here."

NOTES: Donald Constable withdrew before the first round with an injury. … North Augusta's Matthew NeSmith posted the best score among players with South Carolina ties, shooting 2-under 70. He is tied for seventh. NeSmith, the 2011 Junior Heritage Champion, will play at the University of South Carolina next season. … Among players with local ties, former University of South Carolina Beaufort golfer Luke McClellan and former International Junior Golf Academy student and Bluffton resident Mike Balzer shot 3-over 75. Current IJGA student Matt Cheng shot 80. … The youngest player in the field — 15-year-old Peter Mathison — and the oldest player in the field — 67-year-old Rick LaRose — shot identical 90s in the opening round.

Friday's tee times
7:15 a.m.: Rick LaRose, Rob Simmons
7:25 a.m.: Nick Gilliam, Zachary Herr, Tucker Wadkins
7:35 a.m.: John Voetsch, Peter Mathison, Zachary Olsen
7:45 a.m.: Jeffrey Kang, Tyler McCumber, Brett Drewitt
7:55 a.m.: Anders Albertson, Cameron Wilson, Todd Sinnott
8:05 a.m.: Ryan McCarthy, Dominic Bozzelli, Richy Werenski
8:15 a.m.: James White, Nathan Holman, Sean Dale
8:25 a.m.: Keith Mitchell, Bo Andrews, Anthony Murdaca
8:35 a.m.: Michael Weaver, Anthony Paolucci, Brinson Paolini
8:45 a.m.: Richard Lamb, Billy Kennerly, Geoffrey Drakeford
8:55 a.m.: Donald Constable, Michael Johnson, Nick Sherwood
9:05 a.m.: JD Tomlinson, Steven Kearney, Ben Fogler
9:15 a.m.: AJ Crouch, Austin Cody, Kramer Hickok
9:25 a.m.: Mills Rendell, Marcel Puyat, Chase Parker
9:35 a.m.: Luke McClellan, Michael Cromie, Ryan Heisey
9:45 a.m. Michael Balzer, Oliver Goss, Andrew Mason
9:55 a.m.: Conrad Ray, Max Homa, Rory Bourke
10:05 a.m.: Andrew Yun, Bobby Wyatt, Cameron Smith
10:15 a.m.: Carlton Forrester, Blayne Barber, Jake Higginbottom
10:25 a.m.: Ben Kohles, Ben Campbell, Zander Lombard
10:35 a.m.: Curtis Thompson, Daniel Berger, Matthew Stieger
10:45 a.m.: Cory Whitsett, Cody Proveaux, Mathew Perry
10:55 a.m.: Cody Martin, Daniel Nisbet, Minghao Wang
11:05 a.m.: Fraser Wilkin, Justin Shin, Crawford Reeves
11:15 a.m.: Oliver Schniederjans, Matthew NeSmith, Bobby Hudson
11:25 a.m.: Hunter Stewart, Ji Soo Park, Patrick Grimes
11:35 a.m.: Michael Hebert, Daniel Hendry, Mitch Gray
11:45 a.m.: Matt Cheng, T.J. Mitchell, Shane Lebow


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