PANAMA CITY, Panama – Matt Atkins, Andrew Putnam, Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada product Adam Svensson and Beau Hossler are tied for the lead after the first round of the Panama Claro Championship. The quartet played during the morning wave and navigated Panama Golf Club in 6-under-par 64.
Kurt Kitayama, Web.com Tour money leader Ethan Tracy, Cameron Wilson, PGA TOUR Canada alum Sam Ryder and Ted Potter Jr. are a shot back heading into the second round.
Hossler recorded the only blemish-free round during the morning wave at Panama Golf Club. The former Fred Haskin Award winner made four birdies and an eagle to kick off his debut on the Web.com Tour.
“It was a good start,” said Hossler, who received a sponsor’s invitation this week. “I don’t think I chipped one time. Six-under is always good; keeping the bogeys off the card is even better.”
The highlight of Hossler’s round came at the par-5 fourth hole where he elected to aim his tee shot at the third hole. Playing from the fairway, of the adjacent hole, the 21-year-old from Mission Viejo, California, knocked a hybrid onto the green and made a 30-foot uphill putt for eagle to move into a share of first.
As a professional, Hossler has played in two PGA TOUR events, with his best showing coming in San Diego at the Farmers Insurance Open, where he placed T49. The former Texas Longhorn earned his first professional victory at the Cypresswood Open on the Adams Pro Tour last December. Despite not having status on any major Tour, the goal remains the same every time Hossler enters an event.
“I want to win,” said Hossler, who claimed five titles during his junior campaign in Austin. “Whether it’s here or a mini tour or the PGA TOUR … when I show up to a tournament, I want to give myself an opportunity to win. I feel like my game is good enough to do that, it’s just a matter of getting it done.”
A stellar collegiate career ended on a sour note when Hossler was forced to concede a singles match, during the NCAA Championship, because he injured his left shoulder. The diagnosis was a torn labrum, which required surgery and countless hours of rehab. Hossler tackled the challenge and remained positive throughout the process. He tested his shoulder in November and says it is fully functional as his schedule ramps up in the coming weeks.
“The recovery process was long,” said Hossler, who was unable to pick up a club for five months. “I feel really good with where I’m at now. I feel healthy, I feel more of an appreciation for what we do. It’s pretty special to play golf and make money doing it. I’m looking forward to getting the season going in the right direction.”
Svensson hit all 18 greens in the first round and posted his lowest score of the season after missing the cut in his first three starts. The 23-year-old from Surrey, British Columbia, switched to a putter similar to the model he used to earn medalist honors at the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in 2015.
“Just stick with the putter, said Svensson, who changed putter 16 times during last season. “I need to eliminate the three-putts and stick to one putter. I just went back to what I putted well with, and I’m rolling it pretty good right now.”
Putnam is off to the best start of his career and is currently No. 6 on the Tour money list. He even bested his brother, Michael, by three on Thursday. In 76 events played on Tour, Putnam has amassed 32 top-25s, with eight of them coming in Latin America.
“I feel like I always play pretty good in Latin America,” said Putnam, who carded a personal-low 64 in his 13th competitive round at Panama GC. “I don’t know exactly what it is. Maybe it’s the time off and being rested. I’m putting myself in good spots these first few events, so hopefully I can stick to the game plan and have a chance on Sunday.”
Atkins is making his third start in the Panama Claro Championship and hoping this week can jump-start his season. A balky putter has led to a tough start to his third year on Tour, where he has missed three cuts and posted just one round under par. The 26-year-old from Aston, Pennsylvania, relies heavily on the flat stick to go low and worked hard on his technique in an unusual place to get better.
“It was an awkward start to the season,” said Atkins. “I knew that I wasn’t playing too bad even though I missed three cuts to start the season. That may lead people to believe that it wasn’t in good shape, but I felt good.”
“I actually got some good putting practice in, in the hotel room,” he continued. “I felt like that was the key for me. I haven’t putted well in a couple of years. I would go through streaks where I didn’t make any putts. I feel like that’s the strongest part of my game and I really holed a lot of putts today inside of 10 feet.”