May 27, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports EditorThree scores of 67 were produced early Saturday in the opening round of the three-day annual Saltwater Classic golf tournament at Riverton Country Club.
Nick Travers (Cave Creek, Ariz.), Luke Symons (Aurora, Colo.,) and Zach Blair (Provo, Utah) all finished five under par to set the tempo for the 54-hole tournament.
All three golfers took advantage of playing in the early part of the day, when cool, damp conditions were the best. The golfers continue the Saltwater Classic on Sunday, and will conclude the tournament Monday afternoon. The lowest scores play in the final groups.
"This is the first year that we have had any of the amateurs playing from the back tees, giving them an opportunity to win the overall event," Riverton Country Club golf pro Steve Johnson. "Right now, it's looking like a really good idea."
Blair is playing as an amateur, but his handicap is 1.4 or lower.
"In years past, Zach would have been playing up on the other tee markers and not having a chance to win the event," Johnson said. "Playing with the pros is going to be pretty exciting."
Blair said the best hole in his round was No. 15 when came up with an eagle 3.
"I played solid in the round," Blair said. "I made a couple of putts, so it was a good start. It was cold out there, so it was good to get off to a good start. I just need to have the same type of rounds to give myself a chance."
The golfers had to fight chilly conditions all day and rain in the afternoon. The high temperature Saturday was in the mid-40s, and the temperature dropped into the upper 30s after 4 p.m.
"A 67 on a day like this is pretty amazing," Johnson said. "It's cool, but we didn't have wind. They didn't have to deal with any rain in the morning."
Four-time Saltwater Classic champion Steve Schneiter had a 73. James Blair, who won the title in 1987 and in 2000, played to a 70. Pro golfer Kurt Owens from Farmington, Utah, also scored a 70.
"I keep going back that the scores are so depending on the weather," Johnson said. "I just keep on thinking that it's going to clear up."
Scott Petersen, the 2007 champion, put in a 72. University of Wyoming golfers Clinton Boutelle and Eric Parish both fired 71s.
"If we do have a nice day without wind, then somebody will shoot a 65 and that will separate them from the field," Johnson said. "I think that 15-under for the tournament is in range. I think that it will be really fun to do the pairings for Monday if we have some amateurs in contention." Past champs Schneiter (2005) and Boyd Summerhays (2002) own the tournament record of 19-under for three days.
Riverton seventh-grader Easton Paxton shot a 74 in his first 18 holes of the tournament.
"I struggled on the back nine, but on the front nine I did really well," Paxton said. Paxton, 13, had a double bogey 6 on No. 18 . "I missed three putts inside four feet," Paxton said.
Paxton birdied No. 7, No. 9, No. 12, No. 14 and No. 16. "I'm kind of use to it," said Paxton about playing from the black tees. "It wasn't that tough, but it was a lot of fun out there." Paxton and Todd Tanner, the 2011 Saltwater Classic winner, were playing partners on Saturday. Tanner matched Paxton with a 74. "I'm just going to have to go low the next two days," Paxton said. "I feeling good about my game right now."
Riverton's P.J. Thomas put in a 75.
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