The 24-year-old Orlando, Fla., resident opened with a 7-under 63 at historic Royal Colwood GC and will take a two-shot lead on White Rock, B.C.s Richard Zokol and former Tour member Steve Schneiter into play Friday. Michael Harris is three shots back, while Zoltan Veress and Americans Dave Christensen, Robert Hamilton, Ben Pettitt, Chris Wollmann and Stephen Woodard came in at 3-under 67.
Damron, who has made three of five cuts in his rookie season with a best showing of 13th in Austin, Texas, earlier this year, recently qualified for the PGA Tours Western Open. His older sibling, who played the Canadian Tour in 1996, has made $3.7 million on the PGA Tour and won the 2001 Byron Nelson Classic. Still, the younger Damron never gets tired of being referred to as Roberts younger brother.
It doesnt bother me at all, things could be a lot worse, said Damron. Facts are facts, and I am very proud of what Robert has been able to accomplish. Ill never mind being called his brother.
On Thursday, playing one of the most renowned courses in Canada, Damron turned in a scorecard that featured seven birdies and no bogeys. After missing every green in regulation over the first four holes, he began to find his groove and found a hot touch with the putter. With a course record-tying 62 hinging on an 8-foot birdie putt on 18, Damron left the stroke hanging just over top of the cup. Royal Colwood features a spectacular setting, with the fairways lined with towering fir and hemlock trees, and Damron knows the key to the week will be keeping it straight off the tee.
I like this course a lot, youve just got to avoid those huge trees. If the ball even touches one of those, it is dropping straight down or wont be found. But it is a beautiful track, and it was a good start for me.
Playing in his first Canadian Tour event since 2000, Zokol, himself a PGA Tour champion, had a rough start, snap-hooking his tee shot on the par-4 opening hole before getting up and down for par. He then followed that up with another par save on number two. After reaching the par-5 fifth in two, Zokol appeared to have a tap-in for birdie. But as he addressed his ball, he accidentally ground his putter, causing the ball to move slightly. While playing partners Michael Harris and Rob Johnson did not see the infraction, Zokol gave himself a penalty stroke on his way to a bogey-6. After informing a Tour Rules Official, Zokol went on to birdie the next hole.
Well, I prefer to think of it as a three-putt with a penalty, he said with a smirk when asked by a reporter if the fifth hole should be considered a four-putt. But, see, get a clear conscience and get birdie on the next hole.
Zokol earned his way back onto the PGA Tour thanks to a 13th-place finish on the Nationwide Tour money list in 2001. His 2002 campaign was cut short when he needed surgery to repair an arthritic joint in his right toe, and he is playing this PGA season on a medical exemption. But it hasnt gone as planned for Zokol this year. Hampered by constant back problems, the two-time World Cup team member has made just one cut in ten starts.
This week, he is playing in his home province, at a course he hadnt seen since the 1976 Canadian Amateur Championship. But being from B.C. and having had the chance to play the track all week, Zokol knows when the sun shines as it did Thursday, Royal Colwood is without a doubt one of Canadas golf treasures.
Just another beautiful day in B.C. If you get a day like this, you wont find a better environment to play than a course like this. Its a remarkable golf course, and always seems to play better than the time before. Its an absolute jewel.