Reed shoots 66 in Round 1 at Wells Fargo

Patrick Reed hits to the 15th green during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Patrick Reed went from Monday qualifying to the early leader at the star-studded Wells Fargo Championship, shooting 66 to share the first-round lead during the morning wave.

“This round was all because of the confidence I’ve had for the past month,” he said. Reed was in a five-way tie for first – with Rickie Fowler, D.A. Points, John Senden and Brian Davis – after Thursday’s morning wave.

Reed, 21, was a first-team All-American at Augusta State last year, but lacks status on either the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour. He’s making his third consecutive PGA Tour start thanks to sponsor exemptions and Monday qualifiers.

It started two weeks ago when he was pulled off the golf course during the Valero Texas Open’s Monday qualifier and given an eleventh-hour exemption into the event. He finished 35th there, then made the nine-hour drive with his fiancee, Justine Karain, to New Orleans. They arrived at 2:45 a.m., sleeping four hours before the Zurich Classic’s Monday qualifier. An 8-iron to 2 feet on the second playoff hole earned him a second consecutive start. He birdied five of his final eight holes at TPC Louisiana to tie for 24th.

Reed and Karain took a circuitous route to this week’s Tour stop in Charlotte. The first flight went from New Orleans to Chicago’s Midway International Airport. The next one landed in Greenville, S.C., some two hours from Charlotte. They arrived at the hotel around midnight, with another Monday qualifying round awaiting.

Karain, who’s barely taller than Reed’s staff bag, has caddied the entire time. She does more than carry the bag, though. Karain, a former high-school golfer, has given him the proper read on several crucial putts, including the final one in Monday’s qualifier. That 15-foot birdie putt kept Reed out of a 10-for-2 playoff for the final two spots in the Wells Fargo. She is a registered nurse but is taking time off work to caddie.

“I thought right edge. She said, ‘No, left edge,’ ” Reed said. “I listened to her because I wasn’t putting that great that day. I played it left edge and poured it in the center of the cup.”

Reed has made $81,755 for his work in the past two weeks and has an opportunity to add to that total at Wells Fargo. He can earn Nationwide Tour status by finishing in the top 200 on this year’s money list. It took $169,973 to do that last year. Reed will have to earn close to $700,000 to earn a PGA Tour card for next year. His good play will strengthen his candidacy for sponsor exemptions into upcoming events. He can receive six more exemptions this season.

Reed proposed to Karain, whom he met while attending high school in Baton Rouge, La., in January, shortly after returning from a victory in a professional event in Trinidad & Tobago. They also moved to Houston earlier this year. Reed began working with Kevin Kirk, who also instructs Jhonattan Vegas, when he moved to Texas.

“He’s very determined,” Kirk said of Reed. “He’s very clear about who he is and where he’s going. He already thinks he’s a great player. It’s just a process of showing everyone.”

Reed has never lacked confidence. His competitive nature made him a match-play master in amateur golf and is perfect for Monday qualifying, in which a player must forget the long odds against him and squeeze as many birdies as possible into 18 holes. He was 6-0 in match play at the past two NCAA Championships, helping small Augusta State to consecutive Division I national championships. He beat U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, 8 and 7, last year, then clinched the national title with a match-play win over current PGA Tour rookie Harris English, who was playing for Georgia.

“He loves that environment, the you-against-me mentality,” said Gregory, now the head coach at his alma mater, SMU. Reed is trying to beat the odds this time by earning a PGA Tour card while not holding membership.

His hectic schedule won’t end after Quail Hollow. He’ll fly late Sunday from Charlotte to New Orleans, where his car is sitting in an airport parking lot. He’ll play a practice round the next day for his U.S. Open local qualifier, which is Tuesday at New Orleans’ Lakewood Golf Club. He wouldn’t change a thing, though.

“It’s fun because you get to prove yourself,” Reed said. “I feel like I’m playing well enough to play out here.”

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