SANTA ANA PUEBLO – It turned out to be a banner day for the New Mexico contingent in Thursday’s opening round of the Senior PGA Professional Championship tournament at Santa Ana and Twin Warriors golf clubs.
Heading into Friday’s second round, Santa Fe’s Brad Lardon sits in fifth-place tie with a 5-under 67 that he shot at Santa Ana.
He trails leader David Hronek of Florida by three stokes and Cameron Doan – a born-and-raised New Mexican who now plays out of Dallas – by a stroke.
Lardon and the rest of the locals are among 264 50-and-older players vying for a first-place winner’s check of $26,000 and a total purse of $318,000.
“I just wanted to play and enjoy playing in a national championship here in our own state,” Lardon said of his day.
Play continues Friday at both courses. Saturday’s third round and Sunday’s final round, after cuts, takes place at Twin Warriors.
Coming off a scorching summer in which he won three Section Majors, Lardon, who works at Las Campanas, said he entered the tournament feeling good about his game, and he continued his comeback from major shoulder surgery that fixed three big tears and re-attached a biceps muscle.
“I was confident,” he said. “I know if I play my best, I can win. But having said that, I wanted to keep the game simple. I wanted to keep the ball in front of me, which I was able to do most of the time, not all of it.”
Most of Lardon’s run of success this year came at Twin Warriors. So getting off to a good start at Santa Ana was particularly important.
“I was more concerned with Santa Ana. I feel like I know Twin very well,” he said. “The tournaments I’ve played at Twin in the last few years, I’ve played well in all of them. Twin kind of suits my eye and I have a good feel for that course.”
The goal for the day was simply break par, and with just one bogey, he did so in fine fashion.
“I think it was really important for me to play well. Anything under par, I would have been happy with. Sub 70s is what I was looking for. But anything under par was going to be a success. I just didn’t want to shoot myself out (Thursday), and I didn’t.”
With the national championship in New Mexico, Lardon said there is a certain responsibility for him and the rest of the locals to play well.
Check that one off, at least for day one. Jeff Roth out of Farmington is tied for 11th at 3-under, Steve Manning, a teaching pro from Albuquerque, is tied for 37th at 1-under. Bill Harvey is tied for 56th after an even round.
“I think all that pressure is internal, so it kind of depends on how you take it,” Lardon said. “Yeah, I want to do well and I was able to get off to a good start and yeah, you feel a little bit of pressure, but at the same time, I try to let that work for me.”
That means taking advantage of the local knowledge, he said.
“I know how the ball works at altitude better than every single one of these guys out here,” Lardon said. “I know how the ball goes when we tee off in the morning, when we tee off at 45 (degrees) versus when it heats up and gets to 75. So I try to let this home court work for me. So things that you might be questioning if you were from out of state, I don’t really have to question those. I have a pretty good feel for how things are going to go as long as I hit them solid.”
Manning, who worked at Santa Ana, said his round could have gone a little better if he hadn’t three-putted on too many holes.
“There is an expectation, because I worked at Santa Ana for 15 years and played Santa Ana and Twin more than anyone in the field,” he said. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do (Thursday) and for the most part accomplished that. I hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation. I hit the ball really solid. I had four bogeys and three of those were three-putts.”
(Click here for the tournament leaderboard.)