FARMINGTON — Low scores abounded as the first round of the 49th annual San Juan Open teed off on Thursday.
Golfers took advantage of the good weather and great course conditions with 25 players firing rounds in the 60s at the San Juan Country Club.
Frank Apodaca took a one-shot lead with an opening round of seven-under 64.
The 57-year old returned to the tournament after a two-year hiatus because of knee surgery as preparation for his U.S. Senior Open qualifying on Monday.
"I've been playing this thing for about 17 years. It's a great tournament, and the people are awesome," Apodaca said. "I'm going to force myself to play a lot of golf this week."
Apodaca, who hails from San Jose, Calif., found out about the event from a friend and has tried to make it a part of his schedule ever since.
"Years ago, he told me about it," Apodaca said. "'It's way out in the boonies,' he told me, 'but you'll love it.' Ever since then, I've been coming."
Apodaca leads a pack of four golfers by a stroke after the opening 18 holes.
Timothy Madigan, Zenon Brown, Riley Arp and Dustin White each trail by a single shot after shooting rounds of six-under 65.
White is one of about 30 professionals playing in the event for the first time.
"Some friends of mine have played here in the past and have always had a good time," said the 32-year-old native of Pueblo, Colo. "They told me the people were nice and took good care of us. It worked out with my schedule this year, and so far, it's everything they said it was."
The field of 77 professionals is expected to be one of the strongest in San Juan Open history, and Ryan Hogue, the 2005 and 2007 champion, said he's seen the tournament get more difficult each year he's been involved.
"It's gotten better every year, especially the last two or three years," Hogue said. "It's become such a known event with my peers. It's a big deal for us and there's a lot of money to be won. That draws the best players. The players follow the money."
Hogue opened with a round of four-under 67 to sit in a tie for ninth place.
Hogue is one of five past champions in the field.
Clay Ogden, the 2010 champion, is among three golfers who shot rounds of five-under 66 to tie for sixth place after the first day.
Derek Tolan, the 2009 winner, shot three-under 68 to sit in a tie for 15th, while 2011 winner Ryan Dillon shot even-par 71.
Scott Gates, the 1990 champion, is in a tie for 62nd place after a round of five-over 76.
San Juan Country Club head professional Jeff Roth is in a tie for 22nd after shooting two-under 69.
Marcus Garard and Danny Beyhan shot the low amateur rounds of the day with scores of even-par 71.
The tournament will continue today with the second round and run through Sunday.
Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu.