Jason Gore takes first-round lead at Neediest Kids Championship
By Eric Detweiler,
Gore hasn’t always felt comfortable with a putter in his hands, but since left shoulder surgery kept him confined to the practice green for almost three months last year, the 38-year-old former PGA Tour winner’s mind-set has changed.
After draining his fourth birdie putt of at least 20 feet, Gore sits alone atop the leader board at the Web.com Tour’s Neediest Kids Championship. He carded a 7-under-par 63 to finish two shots clear of Michael Connell, Alistair Presnell and Will Wilcox.
“I feel good over it – I know I’ve got it,” said Gore, who overcame a pair of bogeys with nine birdies. “Put it this way, the putts that don’t go in, I’m shocked.”
Players teeing off early took advantage of the soft conditions provided by morning rain to attack the 7,139-yard, par-70 course. Fourteen of the top 20 on the leader board, including Gore, began in the morning, well before the sun started drying out the course.
Monday qualifier Josh Persons is also at 5 under through 17 holes but was in the lone group to have its round cut short by darkness. The group of seven players at 4 under includes three-time PGA Tour winner Woody Austin and Sam Saunders, who is golfing great Arnold Palmer’s grandson.
“I wish we’d play a course like this every week,” said Saunders, who birdied six of his first 12 holes.
“On this tour, you might as well call it the ‘Wedge.com Tour’ because it’s just driver-sand wedge [to the green] every week. It’s nice to play a real golf course that is big and I think really tests all aspects of the game.”
Gore, who was once a fixture on the PGA Tour, has spent the past three years toiling on its feeder circuit. After his shoulder surgery, he placed 30th in the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying school last December, finishing one shot away from earning back his Tour membership card.
The long-hitting veteran showed his excitement Thursday, punctuating his best shots with a fist pump. While he has failed to make the cut in seven of his eight PGA Tour events this year, he said he’s beginning to regain the passion necessary to be competitive with the world’s best.
After shooting a 78 to start last week’s Chiquita Classic near Charlotte, Gore planned to withdraw from the event. He woke up last Friday and caught the opening matches of the Ryder Cup on television.
Suddenly excited by the competition on the screen, Gore headed to the course for his second round.
He ultimately missed the cut, but he arrived at TPC Potomac this week with his wife Megan and two children, Jaxon and Olivia, refocused for the final month of the Web.com Tour season.
Note: Silver Spring native Jay Mulieri posted a 73 in his first professional round. The two-time Gonzaga All-Met and recent Loyola grad received a sponsor exemption into the field.