Six players share first round lead at The Wildfire Invitational

Adam Svensson held the 36-hole lead on the Tour last week (Chuck Russell/PGA TOUR)

Six players, including British Columbia’s Adam Svensson, Taiwan’s C.T. Pan, Kansas’ Michael Letzig, Florida’s Chase Marinell, Ohio’s Ethan Tracy and Texas’ Curtis Reed shot rounds of 8-under 64 on Thursday at Wildfire Golf Club to share the first round lead at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Wildfire Invitational presented by PC Financial.

Svensson, who held the 36-hole lead on the Tour last week at the WinCo Foods Portland Open before finishing T13, two-putted for birdie on the par-5 18th in near darkness to share the lead. Play was suspended at 8:01 p.m. due to darkness with one group on the course left to finish.

“I’m taking last week as a confidence builder and just have to keep going and see how it ends,” said Svensson, who owns finishes of T2-T2-T3 in three starts on the Mackenzie Tour this season. “There are a lot of birdie opportunities out here, so I’m just trying to hit the fairway, hit the green and make a few putts.”

Earlier in the morning, Reed finished with an eagle at 18 for his 64. The Mackenzie Tour rookie said The Wildfire Invitational, which sees 128 pros compete with 64 amateurs over the first two days of competition, provided an enjoyable atmosphere that helped him go low.

“The two guys we played with today were fantastic,” said Reed of his amateur partners. “They were great guys and we had a lot of fun, and played really well. It’s a different feeling, and you don’t get caught up so much in what you’re doing. You laugh and talk in between shots, and it kind of helps take your mind off golf.”

Letzig and Pan, who sit sixth and eighth on the Order of Merit, respectively, boosted their chances for a good finish to try and move inside The Five with three weeks left on the schedule. The top five players on the season-long money list will earn status on the Tour for next year.

“The putter saved me big time,” said Letzig, who won earlier this year at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel, of his round. “It’s nice to know you can shoot 8-under when you don’t have your best game with you. Whenever you can rely on your putter, it just simplifies everything.”

Pan, meanwhile, is coming off a disappointing weekend where he was T2 through 36 holes at The Great Waterway Classic but went on to finish T11.

“On the weekend I didn’t follow my pre-shot routine seriously. I made some adjustments today, and everything seems really good,” said Pan, who won at The Players Cup in July. “I fixed a couple of things with my game and just tried to stay steady to get in the rhythm that I wanted. Last week was a disappointing finish, but I’m still feeling good.”

One shot behind the group of six leaders was a group of five players that included last week’s winner Brad Clapp and Peterborough native Ted Brown, along with Washington’s Cameron Peck, New York’s Michael Miller and California’s Justin Snelling.

One group was left to finish when play was suspended due to darkness, and will resume in position at 7:15 a.m. on Friday morning. Round two tee times will once again begin at 7:00 a.m.