Defending Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions titleholder Steven Ihm opened last year’s tournament run with a 66 – the same number he carded on Wednesday in the opening round of the 61st edition of the Sunnehanna Amateur.
Unlike last year, he’ll open the second round out of the lead thanks to a pair of sharp rounds from Michael Cromie and Sam Burns.
Burns – a Louisiana State commit for 2015 – and Cromie – a University of Georgia golfer – each finished at 65 for the first round, sharing the tournament’s lead after 18 holes.
Burns was one of seven golfers to record an eagle on No. 11 while bogeying No. 4 to drop him to even at that point.
“The eagle on 11 got the momentum going,” Burns said. “I made some good putts, so I’ll have to keep that going (today).”
Burns shot under par on Nos 1, 6, 9 and 18 along with his eagle on 11.
Cromie bogeyed No. 1 before making his run to 65 with birdies on Nos. 4, 8, 10, 11, 13 and 18.
“It was a good day for sure,” Cromie said. “I just kept it in play and gave myself a bunch of looks at birdie and I was able to knock a few in.”
Ihm and Nicholas Reach each sit at 66 in a tie for third. Charlie Danielson, Nicolas Echavarria, Michael Johnson and Kyle Jones are logjammed in a fifth-place tie a 3 under with six golfers – Max Buckley, Justin Kelley, Andrew Lister, Joe Parkinson, Nathan Smith and David Snyder – tied for ninth at 2 under.
Ihm opened Wednesday strong, carrying a 6-under tally through 13 holes with four straight birdies starting at No. 10. Ihm gave two strokes back to the course at Nos. 16 and 17 to settle in with a 66.
“I was really solid all day,” Ihm said. “Just those two three-putts on 16 and 17 were the only
drawbacks of the round.”
Ihm also noted that his mentality toward playing the tournament hasn’t changed with him coming in as the Amateur’s reigning champion.
“It’s just a matter of getting comfortable on the first tee,” Ihm said. “And then keeping it going all day and not losing focus.”
Ihm was part of the first round’s unofficial marquee grouping, being paired with Scott Scheffler and Stewart Jolly. Ihm’s 66 was the best in the group as Scheffler fired a 69 and Jolly, a 73.
“Scotty and Jolly were awesome,” Ihm said.
“It’s always fun having two good players like that to be kind of grinding with you all day. Me and Scotty had it going for a while, he birdied 9 through 12 and I birdied 10 through 13 so we were kind of feeding off of each other there. It always helps playing with somebody who’s going on like that.”
Reach also eagled No. 11 with birdies at Nos. 5, 9 and 16. His lone bogey occurred at No. 6.
Sunnehanna Country Club champion Derek Hayes fired a 79 to place him in a tie for 89th. Somerset’s Nick Sanner – the Greater Johnstown champion – is a stroke back of Hayes at 80.
Notes: All seven of Wednesday’s eagles happened on No. 11 – a par-5 hole checking in at 519 yards. Joining Burns and Reach in the eagle parade were Corey Birch, Doug Ghim, Mike McCoy, Roman Robledo and Davin White. No. 11 also allowed 37 birdies, making it Sunnehanna’s most generous hole to par in the first round ... Conversely, No. 2 was the toughest on the field with two birdies and 34 bogeys on the ledger ... Twenty-eight golfers finished the first round with a score of even-par or better, a leap over last year’s mark of 15 after a round.
Shawn Curtis is the sports editor of The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/shawncurtis430.