Just because he’s familiar with the layout of the Peoria Ridge Golf Course doesn’t mean it played any easier for Miamian Jerry Friend.
Friend had a 10-over par 82 during Thursday’s first round of the Buffalo Run Casino Classic.
“I am a little rusty,” said Friend, who had been pro at Peoria Ridge when it first opened 10 years ago. “I had a real tough front nine, but I was able to recover and shot even par on the back. I had a good time out there.”
He’s currently working at The Stables Casino, which sponsored him in the tournament.
Ironically, it was The Stables that sponsored the tournament in its first year, 2003.
Friend’s round started bogey-bogey and went south from there.
After a par on No. 4, he had a 10 on the par-3 No. 4, parred 5, had a bogey on 6 then got his only birdie of the day on No. 7.
Friend had a par on 8 and a bogey on 9 for a 10-over 46.
He then settled down on the back side, playing even par 36.
“This course, I know it like the back of my hand, but for some reason when I came out this week, it looks a little different,” Friend said. “I don’t know why that is.”
This is the fourth time Friend has played in the tournament, but the first since 2005. He’s yet to make the Friday cut.
“I haven’t been playing much competitive golf lately and it kinda showed,” Friend said. “It’s a privilege to come out and play with these guys. You can make some birdies out here. Milton Hale (course superintendent and general manager) has got the greens rolling perfectly. If you can stroke your putts on line, they are going to go in.
“I just have to go out there, relax and see if I can make a few birdies tomorrow.”
By comparison, 50 players had scores of 69 or lower.
Todd Bailey of Spanish Fort, Ala., is the first-round leader with an 8-under par 64.
There were four 65s and five 66s.
“People don’t realize how talented these guys are,” Friend said. “Every week they are out here. Most of them are carrying their own bags in this heat, trying to make a living. It’s something special.”