First Day at USHO Belongs to J-Mo

A USHO opening to remember.

Our local correspondent, Rick Woeckener, reports that the heavens opened up on Day One of the 2014 U.S. Hickory Open, flooding the Asheville area with sunshine, low humidity, lows in the upper 60s and highs in the low 80s. Apparently, the local chamber of commerce had something to do with this.

The field of 84, including two ladies, were greeted on the first tee by John Kane, a gentleman from Glasgow, Scotland, who announced the players as they stepped to the tee. Mr. Kane was dress in traditional Scottish regalia to the delight of local television and newspaper reporters and photographers.

Jeremy Moe of Fort Smith, Ark. holds the opening lead with a commanding 69. Five shots back is Mark Hollingsworth (West End, N.C.) with 74. There were three other scores in the 70s – Rick Woeckener (Fredericksburg, Va.) at 75, Ted Kopec (niceville, Fla.) at 77, and Chris Sturges (Rocky River, Ohio) at 79.

Moe, the professional at the Hardscrabble Country Club in Fort Smith, is the reigning USHO champ and may have in his sights his 141 from last year’s victory at the Bay Course at the Seaview Resort in New Jersey.

In the Open Reserve, Russell Eaves (Greenville, N.C.) came in at 64, followed by five scores of 70 on the button – Neal Cowne (Fort Smith, Ark.), Rich Grula (Orlando, Fla.), Adam McPherson (Clover, Va.), Andy Moye (Maury, N.C.) and Rick Rechter (Hopkinsville, Ky.)

Tony Smarrelli (Pinehurst, N.C.) has the early Senior lead with 71, followed by David Brown (Omaha, Neb.) with 74, and Wes Feudner (Warner Robins, Ga.) with 78.

Super Seniors Hamp Munsey (Greensboro, N.C.) and Hugh Menzies (Pinehurst, N.C.) lead their division with 82, followed by Ed Woeckener (Asheville, N.C.) who is one back at 83.

In the ladies division, Barb Kopec (Niceville, Fla.) has the early lead with a fine 88 over competitor Karen Vagley (Fayetteville, Pa.) at 95.

The hickory pro from Arkansas, “J-Mo,” striped fairways and laughed at any challenge thrown in his path on the way to hitting 13 fairways and 17 greens in regulation.

“He was unbelievable,” Woeckener said. “I’m six shots back. The only way I will have a chance tomorrow is if Jeremy somehow becomes ill overnight and cannot show up tomorrow. Six shots is lot to make up on that guy. I will need to find a lot more birdies.”

Woeckener and Moe are in the final pairing tomorrow, at 11:44 a.m. The rest of the field is going off largely as threesomes, save for two twosomes of ladies who have the honor in the morning, going off first at 8 a.m.

Woeckener said the course is in beautiful condition. “Especially the back nine,” he said. “You are surrounded by beautiful mountain views back there. On the 15th, you can see the city skyline.”

And, just for fun, the 16th hole is playing as the longest par 5 in modern hickory tournament history, according to Woeckener. “It’s playing at 605 yards, at least for the Open Division. That division is playing the course at 6,379 yards.”

As for the Country Club of Asheville – “The club has given us the red carpet treatment,” Woeckener said. “Everything we have asked for, they have done. The pro shop staff has been absolutely wonderful.”

Even the non-playing guests and spouses are finding that Asheville is their kind of town. With great shopping, wonderful restaurants, music, pubs and more to be found, apparently nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina for a U.S. Hickory Open.

Tournament wrap-up tomorrow with final numbers for the Championship Series.