FARMINGTON It looked like the first day of the Siegfried and Jensen Utah Open would end in a three-way tie among three local golfers until Kurt Watkins finished his round.
Late in the day, with long shadows covering the Oakridge Country Club course, Watkins posted an 8-under-par 64 to knock defending champion Clay Ogden, brand-new pro Michael McRae and amateur Stuart Gold off the top of the leaderboard.
Watkins is a 25-year-old pro from Chandler, Ariz., who drove up earlier in the week and qualified with a 69 Monday at Glen Eagle GC. On Friday, in just his second round playing Oakridge, he went out in a blistering 29 on the front nine, then coasted in with a 35 to grab the first-round lead.
"I putted real well today," he said.
Since turning pro in 2005, Watkins hasn't competed regularly and has spent much of the past year caddying for a friend on the Nationwide Tour. In fact, the largest check he has earned was a mere $1,600 at the Nevada Open two years ago.
"I really haven't done anything to show for," Watkins said.
Thanks to his opening round, Watkins is a third of the way to the $20,000 first prize, which will be awarded Sunday afternoon. However, with the way Oakridge is playing, he's going to have to shoot another good number today because of the quality of players just behind him.
Ogden, a 23-year-old from West Point who led last year's Utah Open from start to finish with a 19-under-par total, was a stroke better than last year's opening round as he had just one bogey on the day to go along with an eagle and six birdies.
Gold, also 23, grew up in Centerville and played Oakridge regularly. He had a great front nine with a 30 after going eagle-birdie-birdie to start his round.
McRae, a former State Amateur champion who turned professional earlier this month after graduating from Saint Mary's College in California, was the only one of the top five golfers to play in the morning. He was the most consistent with seven birdies and no bogeys on the day.
Former PGA Tour and Nationwide Tour golfer Boyd Summerhays, who grew up playing the course, rallied for a 66 with an eagle and birdie on his final three holes, and stands in fifth place.
Seven golfers Garrett Clegg, Brett Wayment, Mark Owen, Jerry Sneve, Brad Stone, Troy Watkins and Greg Bruckner are tied for sixth with 67s, while nine players shot 68.
The low 60 players and ties after today's round will make the cut, which is expected to come around even par.OPEN NOTES: After 14 years on the Champions Tour, Bruce Summerhays played in his first Utah Open since the early 1990s and shot an even-par 70. ... Jimmy Blair, the 1981 champion, withdrew seven minutes before his 1:10 p.m. tee time so his 17-year-old son, Zach, could play. Zach, who lost in a playoff at the qualifying Monday for the final spots in the tournament and was the first alternate, shot a 4-over-par 76. ... Longtime PGA regular Jay Don Blake, who won the tourney in 1988, is in the group at 68.
E-mail: [email protected]