Holmes at home at Northeast Amateur

RUMFORD, R.I. – David Holmes grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., playing at Holston Hills Country Club, a course designed by Donald Ross.

So, though he’d never played in the Northeast Amateur, he still felt at home competing in this year’s tournament at Wannamoisett Country Club, another Ross gem and arguably the toughest par-69 layout to be found anywhere.

“I just love a Donald Ross course,” said Holmes, who was an honorable-mention All-American as a junior at Tennessee last season. “I feel they set up very good for my game. I just feel very comfortable on them.”

It showed Wednesday in the opening round of the 48th Northeast Amateur.

Holmes made five birdies against a lone bogey for a 4-under 65 and share of the lead with Sihwan Kim of Buena Park, Calif., and an incoming junior at Stanford.

“I didn’t hit the ball all that great, but I putted well, made some good up-and-downs and felt I played smart golf,” said Holmes, who last week finished fifth at the Southwestern Amateur.

“I stayed patient and never let myself get rattled, even after I made my only bogey – at No. 13, when I literally shanked my chip shot across the green,” Holmes said.

Starting on the back side, Holmes birdied Nos. 11, 17 and 18 and came back with a birdie at the sixth and another on his final hole, the ninth.

Kim also began his round on the back nine and made the turn in 4 under after birdies at 13, 16, 17 and 18. He, too, made one bogey – failing to get up-and-down at No. 6 by missing a 6-footer for par – and closed with a birdie at No. 9.

“My iron play was not that strong, but I putted very well,” Kim said. “I had a couple 6-to-8-footers for birdies, but I made a number of 12-to-15 footers out there today, some for pars.”

Kim was a first-team All-American as a freshman but struggled this past season, posting only two top-10s and not landing on any of the All-American teams.

“The college season did not go too well,” Kim said. “This is my first tournament since the end of college, so coming in I had no big expectations. But after a round like today, I definitely have some confidence and a good attitude.”

Holmes and Kim weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the softer and slower greens at Wannamoisett due to the many recent days of rain. And those greens were receptive under the cloudy, cool skies.

A half-dozen players were a shot behind after 3-under 66s, including 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson, who had four birdies and a bogey, after playing in last week’s U.S. Open, where he shot 80-73. Nathan Smith, the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, registered three birdies, two bogeys and an eagle, on the par-4 fifth hole.

Also at that number were Brian Harman, a member of the 2007 U.S. Walker Cup team; Matt Savage, the 2008 North & South Amateur winner; David May and Brent Paladino.

Four players were in at 67, led by defending Northeast champion Brendan Gielow, who last year captured the title with a tournament-record total of 9 under par.

All in all, 19 players finished the opening round in red numbers, with another nine coming in at even par.

Smith wasn’t the only player to score an eagle 2 on a par 4. Mark Anderson, the 2008 Players Amateur champion, eagled the 345-yard seventh hole.

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