The 47-year-old Reese shot 4-under-par 68 to lead Rod Pampling by one shot. Eric Meeks and Tim Petrovic are tied for third place after a posting a pair of 2-under 70s.
Reese finished tied for third in last weeks Shreveport Open, earning just enough money to qualify for the season finale. At 55th on the current money list, Reese will need to cash the $108,000 first-place prize in order to crack into the top 15 in earnings.
The top 15 players on the money list at the conclusion of this event will earn their 2002 PGA Tour cards.
Current 2001 Buy.Com money list
The first player out on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trails 7,656-yard Senator Course - the longest layout ever in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event - Reese carded five birdies over his first eight holes. He stumbled a bit with bogeys at Nos. 9 and 14, but recovered with a final birdie at the par-5 17th.
'It was weird being out there by myself,' said Reese, who played college golf at Troy State, about 90 minutes southeast of Prattville. 'I've never done that before. Golf is all about rhythm and pace, and I was setting my own all day. It was nice.
'I didn't have anything outside of 10 feet at the start,' he said. 'I was trying not to think about it as I was going along. I wasn't concerned with anything.'
Reese is completing his 10th year on the Buy.Com Tour (1990-94 and 1997-2001). Hes won once ' the 1991 Lake City Classic ' but has never finished better than 30th on the money list.
He last played on the PGA Tour in 1995, thanks to a tie for 10th in the 94 Qualifying Tournament. He made 10 of 26 cuts that year and finished 217th in earnings. Reese also played on the big tour in 1982 and 89.
Pampling has already secured a spot on the 2002 PGA Tour. He entered this week third on the money list, but still seeks his first title of the year.
Meeks is 39th in earnings, and Petrovic is 7th.
In the Player of the Year battle, Chad Campbell (No. 1 on the money list) shot 1-under 71 to tie for fifth place, while Heath Slocum (No. 2) opened in 4-over 76.
Both players have three victories to their credit this season.
Todd Barranger won this years Dayton Open, but it probably wont be enough to earn his PGA Tour playing privileges next year. Barranger (No. 15 on the money list) recorded two quadruple bogeys on Thursday en route to a 13-over 85.
Heres how the rest of the players on the top-15 bubble fared in Round One:
12. Jason Hill+3 (75)T36
13. Richard Zokol+5 (77)T46
14. Michael Long+4 (76)T41
15. Todd Barranger+13 (85)53
16. Paul Claxton+1 (73)T20
17. Steve Haskins+2 (74)T32
18. Ryuji Imada+6 (78)T49
19. Tjaart Van der Walt+1 (73)T20
20. Kelly Gibson+1 (73)T20
Full-field scores from the Buy.Com Tour Championship