Ben Kern, making his PGA Championship debut, posted a 1-over-par 71 to lead the 20-member PGA Club Professional contingent.
The PGA Head Professional at Georgetown (Texas) Country Club, salvaged par on the ninth hole (his 18th of the day) to boost his momentum heading into Friday’s second round. Kern held his round together with a birdie at No. 3 (his 12th of the day), and had bogeys at Nos. 6 and 14.
Kern, who won the Texas State Open last week, hit an errant 4-wood tee shot on No. 9, managed to hook a 20-yard approach from the trees into a greenside bunker and blasted out to five feet. From there, he rolled in the par putt.
“It was a great way to end the day,” said Kern. “I obviously enjoyed being here. I was striking the ball well, hitting a lot of fairways and greens. I gave myself a ton of chances for birdies,” said Kern. “Winning last week was huge. The course we played in Tyler, Texas, (Cascades) demanded that you hit fairways. The mindset I had there was the same that I brought here.”
Kern was a stroke ahead of Craig Hocknull of Gilbert, Arizona, and Danny Balin of Rockville, Maryland, who each posted a 72. Reigning PGA Professional Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Nebraska, had a 73.