Stadler’s eagle aids in first-round lead |

Stadler’s eagle aids in first-round lead

Ryan Slabaugh

What Stadler, son of PGA professional Craig “The Walrus” Stadler, did discover during Thursday’s round at Sonnenalp Golf Club was that turning pro might not have been a bad idea. With his father on his bag, Stadler fired 65 by closing birdie-eagle just a few hours after the 22-year-old declared he was a professional on the first tee.

“I hit it pretty solid,” said Stadler, who holds a two-stroke lead (-6) over a pair of 40-something veterans. “I made my chances. It’s no different, really.”

Stadler’s scorecard reflected the confidence he’s gained since a solid performance at the U.S. Amateur earlier this month. With no bogeys, no fives and a four on No. 13 after sinking a 60-foot par putt, he looked a lot like his father, who won the 1982 Masters.

On No. 18, a 594-yard par 5, Stadler hit his 3-wood approach shot 285 yards to about 10 feet. His slick, downhill putt broke just enough to seal the deal and earn a high-five from his legendary caddy.

But lurking behind Stadler 47-year-old Utah native James Blair, who used a little luck and a lot of flair to finish at 4-under. On the second hole, Blair skipped his drive in and out of the sand, skipped his iron shot across the green-side pond and ended up saving par. Then, on No. 10, sitting 114 yards and holding a gap wedge in his hand, he hit what he thought was a good shot.

“We kept walking and walking,” said Blair, the leading money winner in Colorado Open history. “But we never saw it. (My caddy) says, you must have made it.”

Sure enough, his ball was in the hole, good enough for an eagle.

Tied with Blair is 46-year-old Louisville resident Larry Collins, playing in his first competitive tournament of the year. Collins used six birdies on his round to stay in contention after gusty winds and cold temperatures made the traditional stop by the 39th annual Open.

“I like playing in the wind,” Collins said. “When it was gusting, it was gusting for us. We had two or three holes downwind.”

If Blair and Collins look around, they would find themselves sandwiched by youth. University of Denver senior Anthony Giarratano ended up 3-under, after chipping in on No. 2.

“I’m thrilled, actually,” he said.

This last year’s been big for the youngster. After failing to qualify for the Open last year, he transferred to DU from Colorado State and wound up winning the University of San Diego Invitational this year. Tied with Giarratano, an amateur, is Englewood resident Scott Petersen, a Buy.Com regular tuning up for the stretch run on the tour and a shot at his card. Last year’s champion, Brett Wayment, shot a 70 to stay in contention.

Still, everybody Friday will be chasing the cut line and a young golfer with the most talented caddy in tournament history. After his round, the elder Stadler put his role in the day quite simply, whether it’s the truth or not.

“None of my doing,” he said.

NOTES: Top local is Avon’s Ken Sady, who shot a two-over 73. Close behind is Red Sky Ranch pro Jeff Hanson, who shot a 74… Last year’s cut line was at 6-over… Blair, a two-time winner of the Open, said despite a shrinking purse for the tournament and a field lacking John Elway, he’d like to see the tournament stay in Edwards. This comes from a guy who played in the PGA Championship this season at Hazeltine Golf Club and calls Sonnenalp’s greens “more treacherous.”… A good spot to watch the tournament is behind the 18th green, a three-shot par 5 for most in the field that ends on a small, sloping green.

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