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Kerns trails red-hot leaders after first day

CANTON (AP) — Long before rain suspended play for half the field early in the evening, Corey Richmond staked a claim to a near-perfect day.

How many golfers have a hole in one and shoot an 8-under 63, the lowest round they’ve ever had in a tournament?

Playing in his first Ohio Amateur but managing it like a veteran, the Northern Kentucky senior-to-be forged a three-stroke lead after Tuesday’s rain-delayed first round at Brookside Country Club.

“It’s crazy,” he said of his rapid rise to the top of the leaderboard. “It hasn’t really soaked in yet.”

The West Union native holed an 8 iron from 178 yards on the seventh hole and added eight birdies on a Donald Ross layout considered one of the toughest tests in the state.

After teeing off in the very first threesome, he posted a low score that had to be daunting to a lot of those in the 144-player field.

“I wouldn’t want to tee off in the afternoon and see that, I guess,” Richmond said with a grin.

He sure got everyone’s attention. After teeing off at 8 a.m. in the same group that included former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Chris Sabo, he needed just 29 shots to play his first nine holes.

Michael Bernard — you may remember him from three years ago at the age of 16 as the youngest winner ever of the Ohio Am — also opened with a 29 on his first nine but the round stalled out coming down the stretch. The Ohio State sophomore from Huber Heights doesn’t know Richmond but figures he has to be a great player.

“The guy that shot 63, that was pretty impressive,” he said, shortly after following Richmond into the scorer’s tent. “A 63 on this course is really impressive.”

Golfers love to swap news about what everybody’s doing on the course. That was no different on the rolling hills at Brookside.

“One of my friends told me at the turn that two people had shot 29s on their first nine,” said Andrew Dorn, who matched Bernard with a 66. “I heard the scores were really low and I was, just, ‘Wow.”’

The round was delayed by an hour due to lightning early in the morning. Then most of the field played in humid weather and under bright sun for the next several hours. But a major thunderstorm pounded the course late in the day, preventing 72 players from completing their rounds. They’ll return early on Wednesday and finish up before a belated start to the second round.

The 21-year-old Richmond had a fine season at Northern Kentucky, where he was the No. 1 player on the team and was medalist of the Bearcat Invitational. His only previous ace came at a little nine-hole course, Adams County Country Club, when he was 12.

His low score last season in college was a 67. But he sure topped that at Brookside, coming within a shot of matching the competitive course record.

“Most of the bunkers are playing at like 310 or 305 (yards), and that’s usually how far I hit my drives,” said Richmond, who qualified at Coldstream Country Club in Cincinnati because it is close to his apartment. “With it being wet today actually helped because my ball stuck in front of some of the bunkers and made it easy to fire at the pins.”

Not many people had any idea who he was before the round. One who did was defending Ohio Amateur champion Nathan Kerns, who shot a 72.

“That’s incredible,” he said of Richmond’s magical round. “We played a lot of matches together. I played a lot with him in high school and a few times with him in college. He’s a great player. You can’t not be a great player and shoot a 63.”

Massillon’s Tyler Light was alone in fourth with a 67, followed by Parker Hewit of Westfield Center at 69 and Dublin’s Nathan Clark and Akron’s Dan Belden, each with a 70.

Remarkably, Richmond wasn’t the only player with an ace at the seventh hole. Erik Hoops holed a 7-iron at the hole while shooting a 72.

The 2011 winner, Korey Ward, had a 71, with 1995 champion Alan Fadel at 74 and two-time winner Robert Gerwin II at 74.

Peter Hammar, who won the Ohio Am the last time it was played at Brookside in 1987, sagged to a 79.


Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/RustyMillerAP