Doug Garwood posted a 4-under-par 67. He was joined in a tie for second place by Jason Caron and Robert Garrigus at the TPC at Wakefield Plantation.
Bowden coasted to start his round with four straight pars. He then caught fire as he dropped in a birdie putt at the par-4 fifth. The Indiana native birdied the sixth and made it three straight as his birdie try at the seventh found the bottom of the cup.
The 36-year-old moved to 4 under when he birdied the 10th. Bowden came back with a birdie at the 12th and got to 6 under when he converted a birdie putt on No. 14.
Bowden was not done. His birdie putt on the 17th dropped into the hole. Bowden then birdied the 18th to close a bogey-free round of 63, which is his career low round on tour.
'For some strange reason, I made it look easy today,' Bowden said. 'I just took it one shot at a time. I played very efficiently today and I made some putts.'
Bowden has split time between the PGA and Nationwide Tour. That could change this week.
'I'm just kind of a journeyman,' said Bowden, who owns the first-round lead for the third time in his career. 'I've been out here 15 years now. I've been through the good times and the bad. But if I win this golf tournament this week, I'm going to focus on this tour more this year.'
Caron was in the first group off the 10th tee. He birdied that hole and picked up his second birdie at the 13th. On the front side, Caron birdied the first and fifth to share second place.
Garwood also started on the back nine and got off to a hot start with three straight birdies from the 12th. That run was ended by a bogey on 15, but Garwood got that stroke back with a birdie on No. 18. Around the turn, he posted one bogey and an eagle to end at minus-4.
Garrigus was in the next to last group off the 10th tee. He carded three birdies and one bogey on both nines to end at 4 under.
Jeff Quinney and Cliff Kresge each carded rounds of 3-under-par 68. They share fifth place with Roger Tambellini, Tjaart van der Walt, Ryan Armour, Chad Collins, Mike Heinen, Brian Henninger and Troy Matteson.