June 21, 2012

Open notes: Zac Potter overcomes early jitters, shoots 68

Zac Potter was introduced on the first tee as “The Pride of Crestview” during the opening round of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open on Thursday.

Zac Potter was introduced on the first tee as “The Pride of Crestview” during the opening round of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open on Thursday.

The former Wichita State and Cheney High golfer did his best to live up to the moniker, shooting a 3-under-par 68 in his first Nationwide Tour event.

Potter, 25, overcame two bogeys in his first four holes to finish the round tied for 31st. Understandably, the mini-tour player who lives less than five miles from Crestview’s North course experienced some early butterflies.

“My hands were a little shaky on the first tee box, and I hit a couple bad ones right off the bat,” Potter said.

Potter had a group of approximately 40 following him during his round. He said a “comically bad putt” that led to his second bogey on the par-4 fourth served as a turning point. Beginning at the challenging par-4 sixth, Potter birdied four of his next five holes and added another birdie at No. 13.

“That honestly kind of settled me,” Potter said of his early putting snafu. “I was like, ‘Hey, if you’re going to go down, do it your way.’ It made me kind of take a step back and assess the situation and say, ‘This is no big deal.’ ”

Return of KJ — Kevin Johnson’s golf game may not always feature the consistency he prefers, but his self-deprecating humor has never wavered.

Asked for the secret to his slimmer physique during his last two Wichita Open appearances, Johnson said, “I can’t afford to eat. I haven’t won enough.”

Johnson, who edged current PGA Tour player Matt Kuchar by one shot for his 2006 victory at Crestview, was optimistic after carding a 6-under 65 that gave him a share of second place. The Palm Beach Garden, Fla., resident opened his season with top-20 finishes in Colombia and Panama, but hasn’t cashed a check in his last eight tournaments.

“Hopefully, it’s déjà vu or something,” Johnson said. “I just seem to play well here. I’ve had some good rounds and obviously some good tournaments. Hopefully, this will give me a little kick-start and wake me up.”

Rare occurrence – There have only been two double eagles in the 23-year history of the tournament. The latest came Thursday.

Justin Bolli used a 5-iron from 214 yards to make a 2 on the 501-yard, par-5 14th. It was the same hole that Chad Wilfong scored the first one in Wichita Open history during the final round of 2005 tournament.

“I hit a good drive, then it was straight downwind,” said Bolli, who shot a 3-under 68. “It was the last thing I was thinking about. I was hoping to get a decent eagle putt. The pin was in a pretty accessible spot.”

It was Bolli’s third double eagle and first in competition since the opening round of the 2004 Albertsons Boise Open. Bolli has also hit seven holes-in-one.

Rough start – Derby resident Woody Austin shot a 3-over 74 with just one birdie. He made four bogeys on the back nine, the side of Crestview’s North course where Nationwide golfers ususally feast.

Austin and three other players with local connections ended up on the wrong side of par. Kansas State product Aaron Watkins, who tied for 15th in last week’s U.S. Open, posted a 73 along with Monday qualifier and former University of Kansas player Nate Barbee. Reflection Ridge professional Kurt Gibson shot 76.

Etc. – The first-round leader of the Wichita Open has only gone on to win three times. It hasn’t happened since David Duval won in 1993 at Reflection Ridge. Tom Lehman (1990) and Eric Hoos (1991) also accomplished the feat.… Today is Epilepsy Awareness Day at the tournament. The influence comes from 2003 champion Jeff Klauk’s personal dealings with epilepsy. Klauk, a PGA Tour member, will undergo brain surgery Aug. 1 to try to eliminate or minimize the effects of his condition.

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