The 2001 Canadian Rookie of the Year opened with a course-record 7-under 65 at the Mark OMeara course at Grandview and leads veteran Mike Grob and Monday qualifier Rob Corcoran (South Windsor, Conn.) by one stroke. Defending Order of Merit champion Aaron Barber (Orlando, Fl.) and Iain Steel of Malaysia are at 5-under, while four others sit at 4-under, three shots off the lead.
Gillespie won his initial professional event in early May at the Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship, and followed that up with a tie for 18th at the Buy.com Tours CPGA Championship last weekend. By placing in the top 25 in that tournament at DiamondBack Golf Club in Richmond Hill, ON, Gillespie qualified for next weeks Buy.com stop, the Lake Erie Charity Classic.
Playing just a couple of hours north of his hometown Thursday, Gillespie had a little bit of luck on his side late in his opening round. After hitting his tee shot right on the 303-yard, par-4 17th hole, the 24-year-old watched as the ball careened off a rock and kicked left, coming to a rest five feet from the pin. What could have been a bogey turned into a three-shot swing the other way when Gillespie canned the eagle putt.
I definitely caught a break there, and those things can happen when you are on a roll, conceded Gillespie. I wasnt all that comfortable with my ball striking today, but I kept plugging away and made the putts when I had to.
With the strength of the starting fields at an all-time high this season, Gillespie knows a quick start is crucial as he looks to improve on his fourth-place Order of Merit standing this weekend.
Im just trying to stay consistent, if I can do that good things will happen. The bottom line is I have to get even lower with these guys out here. All today did was give me a little bit of a cushion.
Grob, a former PGA Tour member, missed just one fairway Thursday, something he admitted is key on the 7067-yard, par-72 course.
If you can keep it straight out here, it will set up the hole for you every time, said Grob. A good start gets me relaxed, and that is a big advantage for me. Ill just keep trying to do the same things and keep it out of trouble.
The day also featured a hole-in-one when Chris Locker of Columbia, SC, playing in the first group of the morning, aced the 189-yard, par-3 3rd hole. Locker finished the day at 4-under 68.