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Prep teammates going low

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — La Cueva grads rip through rain at first round at Los Altos

A driving rain and lightning storm was about all that could slow down defending champion Patrick Beyhan and 2011 runner-up Sam Saunders during Friday’s opening round of the 69th Annual Albuquerque Men’s City Golf Championship at Los Altos.

And that was only temporary.

The former La Cueva teammates and close friends went on birdie binges during a lengthy round that included a two-hour rain delay.

Beyhan came in with an 8-under 64, but five minutes after he finished, Saunders checked in with a 63.

Neither player made a bogey.

“I actually didn’t think I’d have the lead,” said Saunders, who teed off on No. 10; Beyhan started on No. 1. “I knew Pat was 5-under at the turn, so I figured he’d be around 9- or 10-(under) as well.”

The rain delay hit when both players were halfway through their round, and they killed the time hanging out with each other and ex-La Cueva teammate Ethan Fine, who is tied for third with Sandia graduate Justin Knauber at 68.

Hope Christian rising junior Sean Carlon, the current Class 3A state champion, is at 69, and Jason Myers, James Lee and three-time champion Tim With all shot 70.

The 54-hole event continues today at Arroyo del Oso, with the leaders slated to go off around 9:30 a.m., again on opposite sides.

The field will be cut in half after today’s round, with the top half of each of the five flights moving on. The final round is Sunday at Los Altos with the leaders tentatively scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

“It’s going to take three great rounds to win this,” said Beyhan, who won by six shots last year at 16-under. “There are a lot of guys who can really go low, and I expect they will again. I just have to go out and try and make as many birdies as I can.”

Players in the championship (handicap 1.9 or less) and President’s flights (2.0-6.0) started teeing off at noon on Friday. Because of the weather, some didn’t finish until nearly 8 p.m.. Those are the two flights eligible for the overall title, but they also compete for awards in their own divisions.

“It was a long delay, but I just hung out with my buddies and had a good time,” said Saunders, whose brother, Steve, won the event in 2006.

“That helped me keep relaxed.”

Carlon said he did have a little trouble adjusting to the wet, soft course after the delay. He made two straight bogeys when he came back out, but closed with three birdies in his final four holes.

Opening round leader Sam Saunders tries to gauge the green on No. 15 on Friday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Opening round leader Sam Saunders tries to gauge the green on No. 15 on Friday. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Fine actually played better after the rains came. He was even-par at the time but was 4-under after that.

SENIORS: There are 122 players in the five flights altogether. Sam Shepperson and Rich Goff share the lead in the Senior Flight at 72.

RAIN RULES: It didn’t take long for Los Altos director of golf Chris Moya to blow the horn, stopping play once lightning was in sight. The weather also gave him some decisions to make.

“First and foremost is the safety of the players,” he said. “We continue monitoring the radar and our lightning detector since it will pick up any lightning activity within a mile.

“Since we had such a heavy downpour, we allowed for the preferred lies, allowing players to improve the lie of the ball in your own fairway.”

FALSE START: During the delay, Moya made a number of announcements to inform the field when play would resume. However, one threesome resumed on its own at least 30 minutes before the horn sounded to signify the delay had ended. The players in the group only had one hole left when play was stopped.

Rules state that any such action calls for disqualification, unless the committee determines otherwise. Instead of a DQ, Brad Hammond, Jonathan D. Price and Marcus Koch were given a 2-stroke penalty and allowed to remain in the event.