Sixteen players are within four shots of the lead after a historic Day 1 at the 60th annual Tournament of Champions.
Sitting atop the leaderboard at the conclusion of the first round was Matt Haley of Indianola after a 3-under 66 that included four birdies to go with a single bogey. Seven others shot under par - six in the Championship Division and John Willmore in the Super Senior Division finishing with a 68.
The field of 89 players totaled 143 birdies on the day - likely a record for any round at the event. Eight players under par may also be a first for a tournament that normally features only a handful in red numbers after Day 1, or in any round for that matter.
Three are tied for second at 2-under including local Trojan varsity golfer Matt Gearheart, three others sit two strokes back at 1-under, three more finished even par and six others shot a round of 70.
Last year's champion, Andrew Martin, is part of the group at 1-over. Other local players in the mix include Zach Christianson three shots back.
Willmore leads the Super Senior Division by two shots over three-time reigning champion Arnie Leistad.
Daryl Armstrong, of Crestwood Hills in Anita, turned in the low score of the day for the Senior Division with a 2-over. He has a one-shot advantage on two other players including Atlantic Golf and Country Club member Tad Olsen.
"A lot of my round today was my long game hitting it in the fairway, hitting it on the green and hitting a lot of shots close to the pin," Haley said. "It was a fairly stress free day in that I didn't miss many greens. I didn't make as many birdies as I wanted to, but a lot of two-putts for pars."
Haley went off with the third group just before 9 a.m. and turned in a card early that stood as the number to beat the rest of the day. He shot 32-34 to lead by a single stroke over Gearheart, Mike Davie of the Logan-Magnolia Missouri Valley Country Club and fellow Indianola club member Jeremy Johnson.
Birdies came on the second, eighth, 13th and 18th holes. A five on No. 16 was his only hole over par.
The difference, Haley said, was at No. 2 where a tee shot to the 176-yard par-3 landed three feet to the pin and allowed for a tap in.
"That kind of paved the way for the rest of the round," he said.
Johnson, Davie and Gearheart were almost as consistent with identical rounds of four birdies and two bogies.
"I was pretty shaky with the putter today. If I can get that rolling tomorrow, I can hopefully go lower," Gearheart said.
His round included two birdies from chip-ins on the front nine, a stretch of bogey, birdie, bogey right after the turn then a final approach on 18 from 160 yards out that set him up for an easy tap in a foot away.
"It's not my home course, but I play a lot there for high school practice. It's nice to have a couple advantages of knowing when to hit what club where and which holes play shorter," Gearheart said. "You've just got to go out and play like it's a normal round with your buddies. If you can do that, hopefully come in a little low like today and try to keep it up."
Gearheart is aiming to be the sixth straight winner from Atlantic after the likes of Brad Hartkopf in 2013, Chris Nelson in 2014, Evan Schuler in 2015, Alex Bireline in 2016 and Martin last year.
Martin entered the tournament already holding the Nishna Hills club championship and Atlantic Open championship for the year to go with his first Tournament of Champions title.
His round included a 1-under 33 on the front before a 2-over 37 on the back with bogies on 13, 16 and 17.
Behind Martin and five others at +1 are three players at +2 and six others at +3.
"I was looking at the leaderboard and it was really all kind of clumped together up there," Gearheart said. "I know there's a lot of people just a couple over. I'm not too worried about it. Hopefully, I can go out and shoot another good round tomorrow and we'll see what Sunday brings.
Gearheart, Haley and the leaders tee of Saturday afternoon for Round 2 at 12:50 p.m.
"I think I have a pretty good chance if I play like I did today," Haley said. "But I'm going to take it day by day and we'll see where we are Sunday."