Jul. 9—CHEYENNE — Experience helped three players move to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the 66th Tyrrell Auto Centers Wyoming State Open on Friday.
George Markham and Zahkai Brown are tied at the top after firing 7-under-par 63s. Brandon Kida is second at 6-under 64.
There are five players tied for fourth at 5-under 65.
This is Markham's second time playing the Wyoming Open. He made his debut in 2020, but missed last year's event due to a conflict in his schedule. Still, his previous experience navigating Airport Golf Course helped him card eight birdies and a bogey Friday.
"The one thing I remember from my first time here was you have to hit it straight and hit it 300 yards exactly," said Markham, who calls Phoenix home. "All those par-4s are good holes that leave you with easy birdies if you can hit it 300 yards. I was able to do that, get close, hit some good chip shots and then putt OK.
"You have to be patient, because you're going to have enough birdie chances that you don't need to force things. Just put it in the right spot and chip and putt well. Make it easy on yourself."
Markham birdied three of his first four holes after starting his round on Hole No. 10. He made the turn at 5-under 31. Even a 40-minute lightning delay couldn't slow him. He returned to the course and carded a birdie on Hole No. 1 for good measure.
The lone blemish on his scorecard was a bogey on the par-4 Hole No. 3.
"The course was in really good shape," Markham said. "The greens seemed like they were faster than in (Thursday's pro-am), but they were still really good. We weren't sure how the course was going to be after that rain delay. We thought it might be pretty soft, but it played pretty similarly."
Brown, who lives in Golden, Colorado, carded birdies on four of his first five holes. That string ended with a bogey on Hole No. 6. He rebounded with an eagle on the par-5 Hole No. 10, and closed with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18.
"I tried to manage my game and put myself in areas where I wasn't going to end up behind a tree," Brown said. "It's a killer if you end up behind a tree here. Those pine trees can really mess you up, so you have to be safe, keep it in the fairway and then make some putts."
Kida had a solid start after teeing off on Hole No. 10. He birdied that par-5, and moved onto the back nine at 3-under. He netted birdies on his first three holes after the turn, and also birdied Hole No. 8. Kida also bogeyed Hole No. 6.
"I didn't hit it as well as I have been, but my short game bailed me out," the Salt Lake City resident said. "I never put myself in too tough of spots. The chip shots I did have were pretty straightforward and not too tricky. I also got some good tee shots on those shorter, drive-able holes that gave me good chances at birdies.
"That's always nice around here. To just have one bogey on the card when there are bogeys and potential chip outs lurking everywhere is really nice."
Wyoming Open veterans Jhared Hack and Derek Fribbs are also in a logjam for fourth at 65.
Hack overcame one bogey on each side of the course by carding seven birdies.
"I didn't hit it very well, but my short game was good enough that I score if I got around the green," the Las Vegas resident said. "I had a couple bad bogeys out there, but, fortunately, I have a few more days to make up for them."
Fribbs got himself into trouble on a few occasions after the rain delay, but wiggled himself free.
"I got a little lucky and left myself enough room to punch it out toward the green and keep moving," said Fribbs, who calls Aurora, Colorado, home. "Luckily, none of my bad shots were too bad."
Brandon Tsujimoto, Trey Massey and Ben Davis also finished at 65. Tsujimoto opened his round with a bogey on Hole No. 1, and parred every other hole on the front nine while struggling to find an effective swing.
He eagled the par-5 No. 10 to move to 1-under, and had a string of four birdies in five holes starting on Hole No. 12.
"I got into a good rhythm from that point on," Tsujimoto said. "I've been (putting) the ball really well. Once I was able to find my swing and get my proximity better, the hole looked like a bucket.
"I missed a few putts, but they were just burning edges. It was a really nice feeling."
Five golfers are tied for ninth at 4-under 66. The second round is today.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.