RENO, Nev. » If Chris DiMarco keeps playing like this, his 14-year-old son may have landed a permanent job as his caddie.
The three-time winner on the PGA Tour who hasn’t finished in the top 10 since 2008 shot a 5-under-par 67 with Cristian DiMarco on his bag for the first time at the Reno-Tahoe Open yesterday, good enough to stay within a stroke of first-round leader Matt Bettencourt.
Will MacKenzie, the 2006 Reno champ, and Craig Bowden were two shots off the pace with 68s at Montreux Golf & Country Club on the edge of the Sierra Nevada. A group of more than a dozen golfers at 69 included Steve Elkington, Woody Austin, Mark Hensby, J.J. Henry and former UNLV star Chad Campbell.
Two Hawaii golfers were well off the pace. Castle alum Dean Wilson shot a 74 and is in danger of missing the cut. Punahou graduate Parker McLachlin opened with an 81 and will need a very low score today just to play the weekend.
DiMarco’s son helped read the tricky mountain greens and even called him off of using his driver when the 2-iron proved to be the perfect choice on the 464-yard, tree-lined No. 8 that drops 138 feet from an elevated tee.
"It’s about the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a golf course, having my son there sitting right next to me making birdies and playing well," said DiMarco, 41, who has made 10 of 15 cuts this year but only had one top-25 finish and barely $200,000 in earnings. "He’s a 3 or 4 handicap himself, so he can read greens."
Bettencourt, who won the 2008 Nationwide Tour Championship but has no PGA wins, hit his drive 355 yards on the par-5 17th, knocked a 4-iron 260 yards to within 3 feet and made the eagle before bogeying No. 18.
The 35-year-old Northern California native said he probably played nearly 100 rounds of golf in the neighboring Reno area while growing up, including a couple dozen trips to Montreux the past decade.
"My confidence is building. I feel real comfortable," he said. "I feel really acclimated to the elevation."
"The whole game is about confidence. I think that’s what Tiger (Woods) has bred so well over his career. I mean, he’s so much more confident than everybody else. We all believe in ourselves. You know, it’s just the matter of getting on a hot streak."