Collins leads after opening round of Navajo Trail Open

June 18, 2016

They say you can’t win a golf tournament on the first day, but it can surely be lost. With that in mind, nearly half of the professionals at the Navajo Trail Open avoided disaster and remain right in the mix after one round.

On a day with little wind and good scoring conditions, 26 players shot 75 or better and sit within eight shots of leader Wil Collins.

Albuquerque’s Collins birdied all three of Hillcrest Golf Club’s par 5s en route to an opening-round best 4-under-par 67. Though Collins bogeyed the final hole, his six birdies and two bogeys set the pace for the weekend.

“I was thrilled with the outcome,” Collins said. “I hit my driver well and just scrambled really well. It’s tough to stop the ball on these greens, so you have to grind out here.”

Collins holds a one-shot lead over Durango native and 2010 champion Keenan Holt, who made a chip from a nasty lie behind the 18th green to finish his round of 68.

“I’ve been playing this course for a long time, maybe thousands of times, so it’s always kind of the same to me no matter how much they change it,” Holt said. “I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m striking it well.”

Holt won the Navajo Trail Open as an amateur, and his round started with a birdie on the first hole. A stretch of holes mid-round could have given him a hefty lead.

“I missed makable putts on 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll fall over the weekend.”

Many players felt they were beat by the course Friday. Only seven players were under par with two more at even. Missed putts were key to high scores.

The day was punctuated by a hole-in-one on the par 3, 9th hole that sent the dozens of fans around the clubhouse and on the balcony at Hillcrest into a frenzy.

Mike Taylor, who fired a 1-under, 70 for the low round in the championship flight, capped off his round with a 9-iron that found the bottom of the cup on his final hole. It was his third career hole-in-one.

“Of course, I didn’t see it again and I’ve never seen any of them,” Taylor said. “It’s the first time I’ve played the hole from the shortened distance. I think I like it this way.”

Saturday is traditionally the day scores are lowest because of the morning start and soft conditions. Collins knows it’ll take another good round to stay near the top.

“I’m just looking forward to putting these greens when there’s still some moisture on them,” he said.

Three are tied after rounds of 69. Alamosa’s Ross Benson, John Buffalo of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and Sam Saunders of Albuquerqe are all two strokes back.

Conquistador Golf Course PGA professional and multi-time Navajo Trail champion Micah Rudosky of Cortez shot 77.

Professionals will tee off at 8 a.m. Saturday.