FALMOUTH – Cole Anderson was worried. Not because he was nervous, but because he was not.
The Camden native was getting ready to play in the Live and Work in Maine Open – his first professional event – and he felt calm. Suspiciously calm.
“I was like, ‘This is weird.’ I’ve always said that the day I step on the first tee and I’m not nervous, I’ll quit, ”Anderson said. “But then, once the guy before me hit, it just hit me all at once, and I was like ‘Ooh, here we go.'”
Anderson had nothing to worry about from there. The rising junior at Florida State shot a 4-under 67 Thursday at Falmouth Country Club, putting him just three shots off the lead in the Korn Ferry Tour event – the PGA Tour’s top developmental series.
Anderson’s round during the morning wave was just the first half of an impressive showing by Maine amateurs. In the afternoon, 20-year-old Caleb Manuel of Topsham fired a 1-under 70, carding four back-nine birdies, including three in a row.
“I was telling people my goal for day one was to shoot a couple under and get in position to make the cut and make a little run,” said Manuel, who birdied seven holes to lessen the sting of four bogeys and a double bogey. “That’s exactly what I did. How I got there was a little stressful. ”
Patrick Cover shot 7-under 64 for the outright lead, while John VanDerLaan and Quade Cummins were a shot back at 6-under. David Kocher and Jacob Bergeron were tied for fourth at 5-under.
Nestled right behind them, though, is Anderson, a 21-year-old who, playing among pros, looked right at home. He hit 10 of 14 fairways, often tagging drives over 300 yards. His ball striking was dialed in as he hit 17 greens in regulation, including the last 16.
“I can not complain. I played really nicely, ”Anderson said. “I played almost the whole day pin high. Anytime you do that and you’re putting for birdie on every hole, it’s a pretty good round. ”
He pulled off some pretty shots along the way. On the 15th hole – his sixth played, as he started on No. 10 – Anderson hit a sand wedge from 109 yards to within 2 feet for his first birdie. On the 18th, he hit a gap wedge from 135 yards to between 3 and 4 feet, prompting cheers from the fans in the viewing area. And on the seventh, his shot from 91 yards checked up 3 feet from the pin.
His favorite shot, though, came on the first hole, his 10th, as he hit an approach to 6 feet and rolled in the putt for a second straight birdie.
“I felt pretty well focused today,” said Anderson, who credited caddie Alex Plummer’s distance reads for his approach accuracy. “There was one point I did not even really realize we had people with us. I just got into one of those golf zones where you feel like it’s you, the golf ball and the hole. ”
When he wasn’t swinging, Anderson was at ease, even giving fist bumps to fans he recognized.
“I just felt comfortable,” he said. “I felt good, I was happy, I was enjoying myself. And that kind of continued today. … I just said ‘I’m going to play how I’m going to play.’ It’s what it’s, you might as well go out and enjoy it, and that worked out pretty well. ”
While Anderson made his debut in a professional event, Manuel was back after playing last year. He shot 85 in the first round a year ago, and he admitted that feelings of dread crept into his head when his tee shot on the par-3 second hole Thursday slipped into the water.
“It crossed my mind,” he said. “I was like ‘We’re not doing this again. This isn’t happening. ‘”
After battling nerves through his first nine holes last year, Manuel said it was a much smoother time Thursday.
“That first tee ball was so much easier this year,” he said. “And then the nerves were gone after the first tee ball, really.”
It took a while for the score to reflect it, however. He chipped in for birdie on the fourth hole, but he was 2-over after a bogey on 12. Then came a birdie binge, starting with an approach from about 120 yards to 2 1/2 feet on 15. He hit to within 5 feet for birdie on the par-3 16th, then put his second shot on the par-5 17th on the front fringe, chipped to 2 feet and tapped it in.
Manuel’s pitch from in front of the 18th green lipped out, denying him a fourth straight birdie.
His make on 16 occurred despite a passing train blaring its horn right when Manuel was taking the putter back. After the putt, Manuel smiled and made a horn-beeping gesture.
“It was a little bit in my head, I probably should have reset everything,” he said. “But I got halfway in my backstroke and the train horn went off. Nothing I can do there, I can’t stop then. To see it go in and get some laughs from people and know I can focus like that is pretty cool. ”
The day’s best round belonged to Cover, from Cornelius, North Carolina, who was 3 under through 15 holes but then birdied the 16th, eagled the 17th and birdied the 18th.
“It feels really good to put a full round together,” Cover said. “It’s my best round of the year, and to have it on the first day was really nice. I’m pretty happy about it, pretty pleased. “
Cover has made only three cuts in 14 tournaments this year, but he was on target Thursday.
“It’s cliché, but (I want to) keep doing the same thing,” he said. “There was nothing that stood out today as something that I was struggling with, so I’m just going to practice a little bit and keep things the same.”
Cummins made six birdies and an eagle on the 17th. VanDerLaan, meanwhile, carded only two birdies, but also had two eagles.
“I did everything pretty well today,” said VanDerLaan, a 25-year-old from Southbury, Connecticut. “I could drive it a little better, maybe, but I took advantage when I had opportunities and putted really nice.”
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