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Birdie binge gives DeWald lead at Utah Open

FARMINGTON — With 18 holes in the books at Oakridge Country Club, several golfers are in position to win their first Utah Open title, while several others are in good shape to win another Utah Open trophy.

Steele DeWald, a former Park City High and Arizona State star who recently turned pro, leads the pack after firing a 6-under-par 66 on Friday. He's one up on 1974 champion Mike Malaska, 1997 champion Steve Runge and Andrew Hoffer, a pro from Santa Rosa, Calif.

Right behind that group, tied for fifth with a first-round 68, are former BYU stars Steve Schneiter and Nick Killpack, former Utah Ute Dustin Pimm, reigning Utah State Amateur champion Zac Blair, Colorado pro Derek Tolan and California pro Doug Garwood. Nine players — Nathan Lashley, Colby Meyers, Nicholas Mason, Roger Harrison, Riverside assistant Chris Moody, Joseph Summerhays, 2002 champion Boyd Summerhays, Ryan Rhees and Alpine amateur Joe Parkinson — all shot 69s.

Other notables still in the hunt after shooting scores of 70 on Friday are Sandy's Todd Tanner, 2007 champion Clay Ogden, 1988 champion Jay Don Blake and 1981 champion Jimmy Blair. Pete Stone leads a pack of eight golfers at 71 — which also includes Tony Finau, who needed a second-nine of 4-under 32 just to reach red numbers.

In total, 37 golfers broke par and are within five shots of the lead, and another 15 shot even-par 72.

"I thought I would be close to the lead, but not in the lead," said DeWald, who played early Friday. "Evidently, it played tougher than I thought."

DeWald got on cruise control early with birdies on Nos. 1, 4, 6, 8 and 9 for a front-nine, 5-under 31. He kept it going early on the back with a birdie on No. 11 and another birdie on the par-4 14th to reach 7-under, with the reachable par-5 16th ahead. However, he made bogey on No. 16 and finished with two pars, still good enough to lead by himself. The margin could have been wider considering two of DeWald's birdies — on No. 1 and No. 11 — came on two putts from within 10 feet.

"I had a lot of fun today. I hit it close all day, and I took down my teacher by a shot," DeWald said.

That teacher is Malaska, who won the championship at Ogden Country Club 35 years ago as an amateur. Now a nationally recognized teaching pro in Arizona, he had a flawless round with three birdies and an eagle on No. 16 — the same hole Dewald bogeyed.

After winning the title 13 years ago, Runge spent a few years on the Nationwide Tour — where he won in 2001 — and now teaches for a David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Florida. He got to 6 under after three consecutive birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 13, but made bogey on No. 14 before coasting in with four pars.

"I had two chip-ins and just putted and chipped really well today," Runge said. "But I'm probably going to need to hit it a little bit better the rest of the weekend."

Hoffer's 67 included two front-nine eagles — on No. 1 and No. 6 — and two birdies on the back nine on par-3s. Killpack had six birdies, but also two bogeys. Ogden, who tore up Oakridge in a leading-from-start-to-finish win two years ago, shot a 33 on the front nine but posted a 37 on the back, with a bogey on No. 16. Boyd Summerhays, who lost to his uncle Bruce Summerhays in a playoff last year, struggled just to post a 69.

"I just didn't score today. I didn't position it well and didn't play well. I made mistakes I normally don't make. In fact, I was fortunate to shoot 3-under," Boyd Summerhays said.

e-mail: jimr@desnews.com