Ford carded a 5-under 67 at Barefoot Resorts Greg Norman course and leads Winnipegs Rob McMillan and Mario Tiziani by one shot. Doug McGuigan, Zoltan Veress, Brian Kontak, Hank Kuehne, Mikkel Reese and Monday qualifier Paul Scaletta are two back.
Play was halted because of darkness with 45 players still on the course. They will finish their rounds Friday morning. David Hearn is at 4-under through 15 holes and will try to narrow the gap before second round action begins.
Earlier in the day, there was a 2 -hour delay when thunderstorms rolled through the Myrtle Beach area.
McMillan closed out his round in fine style when he holed out from 80 yards for eagle on the par-5 final hole.
Yeah, that was a good way to end, and I wanted to get done (before play was called), he said. We were in good position, so we thought wed be all right. I didnt hit the ball well today, but I managed my game well and got a lot out of it.
Veress, 27, who wound up tied for third at last summers Aliant Cup in Newfoundland, had a slow start out of the gate Thursday, going 4-over through his first five holes. But the Tours 2000 Canadian Rookie of the Year rebounded on his back nine, going 4-under.
After starting slow like that, it was like, 'Here we go again,' said Veress. I was playing too smart, and that was almost causing problems. Then I caught fire and the putts started to drop. If I can do the same Friday, I should have a decent round.
Kuehne, the 1998 U.S. Amateur champion who captured the Texas Challenge earlier this year, had a roller-coaster round that featured an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys.
I drove the ball fantastic, but my iron play was a little suspect, admitted Kuehne, who needed just 25 putts for the round. Overall, I am pleased with my score. Every time I made bogey, Id come back with a birdie. I fought out there all day long.
With a strong wind swirling throughout Barefoot Resort, Kuehne, like most players in the morning draw, had trouble figuring out the gusts all day. But on the 552-yard par-5 18th hole, Kuehne used the wind to his advantage, unleashing a monstrous 410-yard drive before sticking his approach shot to within a foot of the pin and tapping in for eagle.
That wind made it tough for everyone, and the delay didnt help either, added Kuehne. But for all the rain we had earlier (Thursday), you have to hand it to the guys getting the course back together for us. It was in a lot better shape than I thought it would be.
Kontak, a five-time Canadian Tour winner, clawed his way to an even-par 36 on his front nine before draining three birdies over his final nine holes.
Making his Canadian Tour debut Thursday was Casey Martin. The 29-year-old, who gained worldwide attention a few years ago when he took the PGA Tour to court after he was refused permission to use a cart during tournament rounds, carded an even-par 72. Martin suffers from a birth defect in his right leg that makes it difficult to walk, and he was laid up in bed all winter after experiencing complications during surgery.
It was funny, when I took a drive around this course earlier in the week, I didnt think there was much to it, said Martin of the 7,035-yard layout. But after playing it, I now have a whole different opinion. It is very subtle, but if you arent careful, you can get in a whole lot of trouble out there.
Full coverage of the Barefoot Classic