Riverbend1

Zane Hall lines up a putt with his grandfather, Don Forrest, Saturday during opening round play at River Bend in Argillite. Hall will also play a qualifying round at the AJGA tournament at Bellefonte on Monday.

The winner on Saturday’s opening round of the River Bend Open was easy to see by looking at the leaderboard.

What stood out wasn’t the names at the top, but the number of players who could not break par on the 5,893-yard, par-70 River Bend Golf Club.

Of the 63 players who posted scores, only two were able to reach red numbers, tournament leader Shawn Armstrong and Bryan LeMaster, who is four strokes behind entering today’s final round.

“It played pretty tough with playing the ball down and the greens being a little harder than normal. I actually just hit driver one time,” said LeMaster, who finished at 1-under 69. “It’s not a long golf course and you have to keep it in the fairway.”

Armstrong, a former golfer at Boyd County and Morehead State University, claimed his 65 with 13 pars and five birdies. His birdies came on Nos. 4 and 8 on the front and Nos. 15, 16 and 18 on the back.

He said the crucial part of his round came when he failed to reach the greens on Nos. 1, 5 and 17 in regulation, but was able to get up and down each time.

“I had three up and downs that saved me today. I had five birdies and saved par three times. Other than that, I just kept it in the fairway,” Armstrong said. “All the birdies were close. There wasn’t anything spectacular about it, I just had a few good wedge shots.”

Joining Armstrong and LeMaster in today’s final group are Dagon Abdon – the 12th Region champion who will be a freshman at Greenup County – and Heath Brownstead. Abdon and Brownstead each shot 70 and are two shots head of Tommy Rupert.

Five players – Jimmy Armstrong, Zane Hall, Brad McGinn, Don Pollard and Tyler Cain – are at 73. Rick Hensley, Bryan Groves and Darrell Weaver posted 74s and Josh Gillum, last year’s champion, rounds out the championship flight at 77.

Armstrong said he expects Sunday’s course setup to be difficult and that another low score might be hard to come by.

“They’ll have it set up tough. You’ll have to hit fairways and greens,” he said. “I don’t think anybody usually goes real low on Sunday. You usually have to watch yourself and play defense.”

LeMaster, whose 69 came on four birdies against three bogeys, said the four-shot lead means it’s Armstrong’s tournament to lose.

“He’ll be pretty tough to catch. He’ll have to do something goofy to lose the golf tournament,” LeMaster said. “The tees and the pins were pretty generous (on Saturday), but it’s never that way on Sunday. I don’t see anybody going low enough to catch Shawn unless he does something out of the ordinary.”

RICK GREENE can be reached at rgreene@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.

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