51st San Juan Open gets underway at the San Juan Country Club

Jake Newby The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The The 51st annual San Juan Open kicked off on Thursday at the San Juan Country Club, and by the time the course was cleared, New Mexico State product Collin Pratt found himself atop the leaderboard with a score of 62.

Joon Lee shot 64, good for second place, and Nick Killipack was in third with a 65. Four players were tied for fourth place, including Jimmy Gunn, who tied for 27th at the U.S. Open in University Place, Wash., last weekend.

Many of the tournament's familiar faces were a little underwhelmed with their performances on the first day, including Jesse Mueller and Ryan Hogue.

"I started poorly, but I did start on the front nine, which is by far the tougher nine to shoot a good score on," Hogue said. "I was just misjudging the distance a little bit, so, I made some mistakes and turned at two over (par), but I made three birdies on the back to right the ship a little bit."

Mueller, who shot a 72, said he thought he also could've shot the ball better. After teeing off at 1:18 p.m. Thursday, he said he looks forward to starting earlier in the morning today, where the weather conditions figure to be more favorable.

"It's not as windy during this time of year in the mornings, and the greens roll a little better," Muellers said. "I shot one over (par) and could've been better, but hopefully the conditions will be a little easier, and I'll hit a couple birdies to get myself back into it."

One factor of the San Juan Open that all the golfers seem to be in agreement on is how beautiful the course is at the San Juan Country Club and how well it plays.

"The course is always beautiful; the greens are in perfect shape," Hogue said. "I've seen it play a lot firmer in the past, so I think it's a little easier to keep the ball in the fairway."

Hogue, who tied for second place overall last year, shot a 70 on Thursday. He said he has been competing in the tournament for almost 15 years and will continue to do so.

"It's just a really great tournament with wonderful members and a lot of support from the community," he said. "It's just nice to come back and see my friends who I've developed relationships with over the years."

In 2010, Clay Ogden won the tournament. Although he thinks he shot "awful" on the first day on Thursday, after finishing with a score 72, he knows what it takes to win it all.

"You have to hit it straight," he said. "Give yourself some chances by making some good wet shots. Take care of the the par fives — they're short. That's kind of it, I think."

The tournament offers a number of benefits for its participants, said Jeff Roth, the director of golf at the San Juan Country Club.

"It's great for the players that get to come out here and cut their teeth to gain some experience, with a chance at some real terrific money, too," he said. "It also benefits the young players coming out of college and the guys playing mini tours looking to get on the PGA tour."

Tee times begin at 7 a.m. today.

Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and Follow him @JakeNewby07 on Twitter.