Bolstered by a eagle on hole No. 5, Todd Bailey of Spanish Port, Ala., shot a 64 and held a one-stroke lead after Thursday’s first round of the eighth annual Buffalo Run Casino Classic at Peoria Ridge Golf Course.
Teeing off on No. 10, Bailey was even par through the first three holes before a bogey on par three 13 put him one shot over par.
“I started off bad,” Bailey said. “I was thinking I was in trouble because you’ve got to go low out here.”
After a par on 14, Bailey reeled off three consecutive birdies and a par to make the turn at 2-under.
“You’ve just got to keep making birdies out here,” Bailey said. “There are going to be tons of people under par (86 scores of 71 or lower were recorded Thursday).”
Two straight birdies and two pars ignited Bailey on the front nine. After recording the eagle on No. 5, Bailey put up a par and two more birdies before finishing with a par on No. 9.
“An eagle always helps,” Bailey said. “Then I had a shot at three straight birdies, but my putt on No. 9 just lipped out.
“I caught fire and hit a lot of balls close. I got the speed of the greens down pretty well.”
The top 60 players plus ties will advance after Friday’s round to Saturday’s third round.
Four players shot 7-under-par 65s to tie for second place.
Matthew Anderson of Edina, Minn., started on No. 1 and posted birdies on No. 2 and No. 8 before recording a bogey on No. 9.
Anderson shot six birdies on the back nine to trail by one shot.
“The course is in really good shape considering all the rain we’ve had,” Anderson said. “We played lift, clean and greens are really playing soft, so you could be aggressive.
“I got it going with six birdies on the back nine,” Anderson said. “I’ve had a pretty solid year and this is just a continuation of how things have been going.”
Anderson shot a 63 in the first round of the 2008 tournament and was in a three-way tie for second. He faltered the final two rounds and had to settle for a tie at 57.
"You have to be pretty aggressive every day and keep making birdies," Anderson said.
Irishman Chris Devlin of Birmingham, Ala., finished with a 7-under 65 after teeing off on No. 10. After two straight pars, Devlin reeled off five birdies to make the turn at 31.
"I got off to a rather slow start before making birdies on 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17," Devlin said. "I've been playing solid, but I was just plodding along. It could have been better or it could have been worse."
Following pars on the first two holes of the front nine, Devlin shot a birdie on No. 3 before posting aa bogey on No. 5.
"That was a silly bogey because I hit a wedge shot and short-sided myself," Devlin said. "I deserved iy because I hit a bad shot."
Devlin recovered with birdies on No. 7 and No. 8 before finishing with a par 4 on No. 9.
Also carding a seven-under-par 65 was Kevin Warrick of Valrico, Fla. Warrick started on No. 1 and hit 12 fairways, 12 greens and finished with only 23 putts the entire round.
"I had a few putts I could have done better on, but I'm pretty content with my score," Warrick said. "I had been hitting the ball pretty well then laast Sunday (in the Bentonville, Ark., Classic) my putter finally woke up."
Warrick played in Monday's qualifier for the Nationwide Tour in the Fort Smith, Ark., Classic. With a 67, he missed the cut by two strokes.
"This was just a continuation of that," Warrick said. "I hope to keep it up the rest of the week."
Warrick shot birdies on No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 7 on the front side before posting birdies on No. 14, No. 15 and No. 17 on the back side.
Parker LaBarge of St. Louis, Mo., also finished the 18 holes with a seven-under-par 65 score.
Five players returned to the clubhouse with scores of 66 for the first round while 13 competitors shot 5-under-pars 67.
Twelve players shot 68s on the first day while 15 golfers turned in scores of 69 and 19 golfers shot 70 in the opening round.
Another 17 players finished with a one-under-par 71 while 10 golfers shot even par.
Defending classic champion Ted Potter of Silver Springs, Fla., tied for 36th with a three-under-par 69 on the first day.