By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
SUNRIVER, Ore. - Prior to a shot even being hit in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship at the Sunriver Resort on Sunday, all 312 players in the field knew that if there was a low score to be had, it would be at the Meadows Course.
The Meadows is being used along with the more difficult Crosswater Club for the first two rounds before the cut is made and play moves exclusively to Crosswater for the final 36 holes.
What players probably didn't realize, is just how low some could go at the Meadows.
Playing early and through a pitter-patter of rain that picked up in intensity at times, Corey Prugh and Rod Perry each blitzed the Meadows Course to the tune of an amazing, course-record, 8-under 63 to share the clubhouse lead.
Prugh and Perry were an incredible five shots better than fellow early starters Kirk Hanefeld, Stu Ingraham and David Muttitt. All three finished with a 3-under 68.
"As long as it's not cold, nothing really bothers me," said Prugh, a PGA assistant Professional at Manito Golf and Country Club in Spokane, Wash. "It wasn't cold and wet is fine with me. I'm from the Northwest and it gets wet up here. I tried to keep it pretty simple. I got lucky, a few putts fell - even a couple from some distance. I actually missed a couple of short ones, but I hit them good. As long as you're hitting them fine, they'll fall in eventually. It was pretty simple. I just putted good."
Prugh, the older brother of Alex Prugh, who plays on the Web.com Tour and has played on the PGA Tour, finished seventh in his PNC debut a year ago, which earned him a trip to the PGA Championship. Even with those experiences under his belt, Prugh still felt some nerves when he teed off Sunday morning.
"I have tons of nerves always.," he said. "Tiger said once, 'If you're not nervous, you don't care.' I'm always nervous. The experience was good as a confidence booster meaning that I didn't have to reinvent some sort of wheel to get as good as I believe I am, but as good as everybody else is."
Without question, the putter was friendly to Prugh in Round 1. Like Perry, he needed just 25 putts.
Playing the back nine first, Prugh parred his first three holes before rolling off six consecutive birdies beginning on No. 13. Birdie putts from 10 and 15 feet, respectively, dropped on holes 14 and 15, before Prugh buried a 40-footer for birdie at No. 16 and a 20-footer at 18.
"The greens were perfect," Prugh said. "Hats off to the grounds crew at both places. It's just perfect. It's easy. The greens aren't too tricky to read and they're rolling at a perfect speed. Early on they felt a little slow with the rain, but I figured it out. Sometimes you figure it out, I guess and some days you don't."
For his part, Perry - the PGA Head Professional at Crane Lakes Golf Course in Port Orange, Fla., who tied for second at the 2012 PNC - also got hot on the back nine after going out in 3-under 32.
Perry birdied Nos. 11-14 to get to 7 under before picking up one last birdie on the par-5 17th to finish at 8 under.
"I knew I was on the lesser of the evils today, playing the Meadows Course," said Perry, who believed that he last posted a 63 in a 2010 North Florida PGA Section event. "So, I knew I needed to get off to a good start, knowing that tomorrow was going to be more challenging and playing in the afternoon (at Crosswater Club), the wind was going to blow more and also playing the more difficult golf course. I just loved the golf course. It's in perfect condition and the greens were phenomenal. You can make some putts if you're lucky enough to hit it in there close. I was fortunate to do that today."
Perry missed only three greens and got what he called his big break of the round with his putter.
"I got away with one," he said. "I didn't get up and down (for birdie) from the greenside bunker on 10 (a 534-yard par 5), and felt like I had dropped half a shot. I knew the big guys are going to be hitting long irons in there, no problem. Then, I made about a 45-footer on 11 that was moving pretty good. It just happened to hit the center of the hole. That kept my round together. If that putt goes by four or five feet and I miss it, all of a sudden I've dropped a shot and half starting the back nine. I got a cookie out of the cookie jar without getting my hand slapped."
There's still plenty of golf to be played in Round 1, but Prugh and Perry both set an early mark that'll be difficult to top. So good, in fact, that it broke the competitive course mark of 65, set by 2004 National Champion Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, in the second round of the 2007 PGA Professional National Championship.
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- Corey Prugh
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