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Trio share top spot in Nationwide Tour lid-lifter

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Nationwide TourQUEENSTOWN, New Zealand – American Robert Gates, New Zealand’s David Smail and Australia’s Andrew Dodt shot 7-under 65s on Thursday to share the first-round lead in the Nationwide Tour’s season-opening New Zealand Open.

American D.J. Brigman and Australia’s Andrew Bonhomme opened with 66s at The Hills in the tournament also sanctioned by the PGA Tour of Australasia.

Smail, the 2001 winner at The Grange, had only 27 putts in his bogey-free round. Gates, the 6-foot-6 former Texas A&M player who spent last season on the Canadian Tour, had an eagle, seven birdies and two bogeys. Dodt birdied the final four holes.

Brigman warmed up for the tournament by going hang gliding.

“I went hang-gliding yesterday hoping that would free me and up and take a bit of fear out of me,” Brigman said. “I putted fearlessly today, rolled it extremely well and made a ton of putts.”

American Jason Gore started with two bogeys and a double bogey, but recovered with six birdies on the back nine to finish at 70.