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Lee Leads Sahalee Players Championship
Tain Lee of San Juan Capistrano, Calif. posted an impressive 5-under-par 67 to take the first-round lead in the 19th Sahalee Players Championship (SPC) at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.
The championship boasts 63 of the top men's amateur golfers in the world, and is being contested over 72 holes of stroke play. The field will play 36 holes Thursday, with the final round Friday.
Lee, who is playing in his second consecutive SPC, got off to a torrid start, eagling the par-5 second hole, followed by birdies on hole Nos. 3, 6, 7, 10, 14 and 15. He was 8-under-par after 15 holes. "On the (par-4) 16th, I had to work my second shot around a tree and didn't reach the green, and I couldn't get up and down (to save my par)," said Lee.
Then he double-bogeyed the par-3 17th, where the green is surrounded by water. "Yes, it was tough, but I can't complain. That's going to happen out here."
Lee recently graduated from Claremont McKenna, a small Division III college outside of Los Angeles. "I went there for the academics," he said. "The school didn't give golf scholarships, which was fine with me. I really wanted a solid education." Lee played four years at McKenna, graduating with a degree in economics. He's been playing well enough lately that he intends to continue playing this summer. He's entered into the Western Amateur and will try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur.
"After that, I will try to play in the (PGA Tour's) Qualifying School. I figure I have one shot at this, so I'll turn pro and see how I do."
This year's field includes a dozen international players, but Dimitrios Papadatos of Sydney, Australia, made the biggest statement in his first trip to the United States. "I've never seen a course like this," he said with a smile. "Beautiful. Completely new for me."
After shooting a 3-under-par 69 in the opening round, Papadatos finds himself in talented company on Friday. "I'll just stick to my game plan. Stay aggressive. Hit drivers and three-woods off most the tees. I only had one bogey today, and that took the pressure off of having to make a bunch of birdies to make up ground."
One of the opening round's marquee groupings included defending champion Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho, the senior-to-be at the University of Washington and the No. 2 ranked player in the world; Beau Hossler, the 17-year-old phenom from Mission Viejo, Calif. who captured the golf world's imagination in the U.S. Open when he temporarily held the lead; and Zac Blair of Ogden, Utah, who finished runner-up to Williams in last year's SPC and is the defending champion of the Pacific Northwest Men's Amateur.
After a 4-under-par 68, Williams is alone in second, one shot back of Lee. "I started rough today," he said. "But I guess that was my game plan - get the tough hole out of the way fast." He double-bogeyed the par-4 first hole, flying the green with his second shot and then three-putting for a six.
But Williams caught fire after that, ripping off birdies on hole Nos. 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10. A bogey on the par-4 16th did not slow his momentum as he responded with another birdie on the par-5 18th. "The course is playing longer than last year," he said. "It will dry out and get faster, but I'll still keep hitting drivers off the tee - it's the strongest part of my game, so why change it."
Williams enters the second round a shot ahead of Papadatos and Joseph Winslow of Overland Park, Kan., who also shot 69. Winslow, an Honorable Mention All-American at the University of Iowa, made the turn at 3-under- 33, which included an eagle on the par-5 second, then cruised to an even-par back nine and a 3-under-par finish.
Hossler, who finished tied for fourth in last year's SPC, shot a 2-under-par 70 and is tied for fifth. Blair is shares 17th after a 1-over-par 73.
Past champions of the SPC include Casey Martin, Peter Uihlein, Nick Taylor, Daniel Summerhays, Kyle Stanley, Ryan Moore, Arron Oberholser and Jason Gore, among others. More than a dozen golfers who have competed in the SPC have wound up on the PGA Tour.
When asked about the championship, Tournament Director, Mike Jonson said, "The Sahalee Players Championship provides the Northwest with the opportunity each year to witness the performance of some of the world's finest amateur players."
For more information on the Sahalee Players Championship and live scoring, visit www.sahaleeplayerschampionship.com.
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