The 24-year-old tour rookie opened with a 4-under 68, one shot better than the previous Wild Bluff Golf Club benchmark, and leads Canadian Roger Harrison and Floridian Scott Ford by one stroke. Nine others, including Canadians Gord Chilton and Brian McCann, are in the clubhouse at 1-under 71.
After the opening round was delayed two hours Thursday morning as tour officials waited for heavy fog to clear, play finally began at the 7,056-yard layout before thunderstorms caused two more suspensions later in the day. Play was halted due to darkness at 9:25 p.m. ET with 67 players still on the course. They will wind up their first rounds Friday morning.
Malm, who gained his tour card at Winter Qualifying School last February, has played in the shadow of players such as former U.S. Amateur champions Hank Kuehne and Jeff Quinney for much of the season. Both also grabbed exempt cards in February before notching their first professional wins early in the campaign. While Malm admitted there was still a lot of work to be done before he makes a victory speech Sunday, he was optimistic with his start in northern Michigan.
Everything here has been wonderful so far, but a 68 makes it even better, he laughed. It was a nice stepping stone for me. Ive thought to myself all year 'If we can get our game together, we can beat these guys.'
With Kuehne and Steve Scott, who currently sit 1-2 on the Canadian Tours money list, not playing in Michigan, the door is open for a number of players to close the gap on the money list. Malm feels it may as well be him, adding the timing couldnt be better for him to make a charge towards the top. Sitting 114th in earnings heading into this week, Malm knows he will need to improve his standing if he is to finish in the top 80 and retain his card for 2003.
There are a lot of great players out here, and on given day half the field can win. The condition this course is in, I wouldnt doubt it if there was a 63 or 64 out here. But the way Ive been hitting the ball, I feel I might be able to give these guys a run this week.
Former N.H.L. stars Grant Fuhr and Dino Ciccarelli received exemptions into this event but were still on the course when play was called Thursday.
Full coverage of the Bay Mills Open