Ben Martin has been around the Thornblade track a few times in his life. He played it while he was working his way up to the PGA Tour and now he is playing it again as a way to get back to the big Tour.
The golfer from Greenwood shot an 8-under par 63 at Thornblade to finish the first round of the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by Synnex in a three way tie for the lead.
He was joined by Vince Covello who also shot 8-under par 63 and Matt Harmon who carded an 8-under par 64. Harmon shot his 8-under on a par 72 course while the others posted their score on the par 71 Thornblade Club course.
The Clemson grad who makes his home in Greenville has been off the PGA Tour while he recovers from a lingering back injury. The BMW tournament was his first regular Tour event since he played in the Sony Open back in January.
“I haven’t played competitively in awhile, but I started to feel healthy the last three or four weeks and got to play a fair amount and shot some good scores,” he said.
Being competitive on the Web.com Tour is a first step to playing regular PGA Tour events. With his medical exemption Martin will have a number of tournaments to play with the goal to finish the year in the top 125 of earnings and regain full status.
“I felt confident going in, but you never know what to expect when you are put under the gun,” he said.
Martin was cheered on by a number of local fans from Greenville and Greenwood and just had a good feeling about his round.
“I saw a lot of Tiger paws out there. I was just really enjoying the day and enjoying the competition. I think a lot of times when you are enjoying the day, having fun it leads to better scores,” said Martin.
The next best showing by a golfer with Upstate connections was turned in by Andrew Novak. The Wofford grad shot a 5-under par 67 at The Cliff’s Valley.
2013 BMW champion, USC grad Mark Anderson, finished at 4-under par at Cliff’s Valley and is tied for 28th.
Among the local golfers who have not played in Tour events recently USC Upstate’s Josh Gallman, a 2010 graduate of the school, shot a 2-under par 70 at Cliff’s Valley.
Greenville resident Kyle Thompson is making his last start in a 20 year Tour career. He played in the Nike Upstate Classic, the predecessor to the BMW, when he was in high school.
Thompson finished his first round at 1-over par at Thornblade.
The biggest celebrities in the field are competing in what is called the high handicap celebrity division.
Larry the Cable Guy and his pro Brandon Crick are second.
Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and his pro Davis Riley are tied for fourth place.
In the regular pro-am Martin got a little help from his amateur playing partner Lee Palms. Palms, a former SCGA Amateur champion from Greenville, shaved 3-shots off the team total to finish the first day at 11-under par and a one shot lead in the pro-am.
Golfers will swap courses for the second round. Tee times and complete scores are available at http://www.pgatour.com.