The 27-year-old fired a 5-under 65 and is tied with Aaron Barber of Orlando, Fla., one shot in front of others, including Canadians Philip Jonas, Zoltan Veress, Doug McGuigan and Andrew Smeeth. Americans Mario Tiziani, Hank Kuehne and Jason Bohn, who played together Thursday, are also just one shot back, along with Michael Harris.
Hend married his longtime sweetheart Leanne in front of the British Columbia Parliament buildings Wednesday and, less than 24 hours later, began the honeymoon on the opening tee at Uplands Golf Club. With his new bride caddying Thursday, Hend played a bogey-free round (33-32) to get the early jump out of the gate.
We planned the wedding back in March, and weve been looking forward to it ever since, said Hend, adding this is Leannes first visit to Vancouver Island. The day after her wedding, and she is caddying for me. Hows that for a honeymoon? But I couldnt have found a better girlshe has been there every step of the way.
In seven events played this season, Hend has made six cuts and finished second to Canadian Derek Gillespie at the Myrtle Beach Barefoot Championship earlier this spring. Hend feels it will be a race to the wire right through Sundays final round, and if Thursday is any indication, his prediction seems like a safe bet. After the opening round, players were within three shots of Hend and Barber.
Its nice to get off to a good start - last week I shot 1-over on Thursday (in Vancouver) and was way behind right away. If you cant shoot even or better, all of a sudden you are seven or eight shots off the lead. Today I kept pace, lets hope we can do it right through Sunday.
Barber, 29, won two events last season on his way to the Order of Merit title but has struggled most of this campaign. Lately, he seems to be picking up steam, with three top-10 finishes in his past four events. Last weekend at the Greater Vancouver Classic, Barber wound up a season-high tie for third.
Its been very frustrating for me, but there are so many good players out here right now, it can be a fine line between being in contention and missing the cut, admitted Barber. But I am getting confident, and when you are playing with confidence, you seem to be more patient. And if this competition prepares me for (PGA Tour Qualifying in) October and November, Im all for it.
Jonas, a 13-year Tour veteran, also had his own bogey-free round Thursday and agrees that in order to have a chance on the weekend, a solid opening round is the key.
Any time you can make four birdies and no bogeys, you have to be happy, said the 2000 QuebecTel Open champion. Its a lot easier to play this game when you are under par. Golf can be tough at times, and I hope this will be a start for me. The guys on this Tour can take it low anywhere.
News, Notes and Numbers
*The hard-luck story of the day belonged to Darren Griff of Salt Spring Island, BC, who finished T3 last week at the Greater Vancouver Classic. Griff locked his keys in his car Thursday, with his golf clubs still in the trunk. After borrowing a putter, a 3-iron and an 8-iron from fellow golfer Jason Schultz, Griff played the first five holes with the same three clubs until his original sticks were retrieved.
*Calgary Flames goaltender Mike Vernon aced the par-3 fourth hole at the Victoria Open Pro-Am on Tuesday and won a new car. Vernon then took cash instead of the 2002 Toyota Echo and donated the money to three charities in Calgary.
Full coverage of the Victoria Open