Curt Norman takes early lead at City tournament

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By Mike Cote

It was probably a good thing for the rest of the field that Curt Norman was a little off his game.

Despite what Norman characterized as a so-so round Saturday, he sits at the top of the leaderboard in the men’s championship flight of the Los Alamos City Golf Championship. Norman shot a 1-over 73 to take the day one lead ahead of four other top golfers after the first 18 holes.

The tournament, being played at Los Alamos Golf Course, concludes today. A shotgun start is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

“I didn’t play all that well, but I scored pretty well,” said the first round leader Norman following Saturday’s outing. “I wasn’t right on the mark where I wanted to be, but I made a lot of pars. I don’t have any complaints with my round…I was just a little off on all my shots.”

Norman could have plenty of company in today’s final, which for the men is scheduled for 27 holes.

Anyone within six strokes of the lead after 18 today will play an additional nine holes to determine the 2009 champion.

Heading into today, three other competitors — Cheylan Gresham, Jason Norman and Cale Jones — are within striking distance. Only 2007 City tournament champion Tim Johnson, at 12-over, slid off the pace Saturday.

Jason Norman, the defending men’s champion who led the 2008 tournament wire-to-wire, was also lukewarm about much of his round, but couldn’t have finished Saturday off much better.

Taking his second shot approximately 180 yards away from the 18th green and contending with an inconveniently-placed tree, Norman choked up on a 6-iron and placed his ball about 8 feet away from the pin. Norman dropped his putt in for an eagle to finish up 3-over par.

Gresham finished between the two Normans Saturday. He shot a 37 on both sides to go 2-over through 18 holes.

Gresham is a newcomer to Los Alamos, having moved here during the spring from Las Cruces. He made his local tournament debut earlier this month at the Atomic City Invitational qualifier, where he shot a 77, good enough to place himself into the championship flight.

“The day started out good,” Gresham said. “I had a birdie on one, I made a good putt on one. I executed some good shots on the front nine. I felt like I was forcing it a little after that.”

Gresham finished with three birdies on the day, one less than Curt Norman. The two played in the same group Saturday, along with Johnson.

Norman’s picturesque approach on the par-5 12th left him within 4 feet of the pin, which he rolled in for a birdie to get back a stroke he lost on the 10th hole by pushing another 4-foot put wide right.

Another former City champ, Jones, bounced back from a 4-over on the front to shoot even on the back to stay within three shots.