Carlson Cox, Brian Bonfardin and Dakota Norton were all tied for the lead at even-par 72 after Day 1. Jim Richardson was one shot back at 73, and defending champion Nick York had an opening-round 75.
Cox, a recent graduate of University of Memphis and the Graysburg champion two years ago, felt he left some strokes out on the course.
“On the first seven holes, I had it inside 10 feet and only made one putt,” said Cox, who missed qualifying for the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Classic by a stroke. “These greens aren’t as fast as I’m used to, so I wasn’t getting the pace right.”
He also was needing to shore up his tee shots.
“I only hit four fairways and birdied all four of those holes,” Cox said.
“The rough here is brutal. You miss the fairways and you will struggle to make par.”
York wasn’t able to find the start button in the opening round.
“I just couldn’t get anything going,” he said. “Once I got behind the 8-ball, there was no getting back out.
“The rough is very thick and that cost me a couple of times,” York added. “But I still think I’m in a good position. On Sunday it has to be fairways and greens and make a few putts.”
In the senior championship flight, Tim Dinwiddie fired a 4-under 68 to take a two-stroke lead over defending champ Mike Poe, who posted a 70. Tony Green stood alone in third after an even-par 72.
Dinwiddie also had a troublesome start, but for a different reason than York.
“I bent my 6-iron on a root on the first hole,” said Dinwiddie, who is playing on his home course. “Fortunately, I didn’t need it again until the par-3 14th.”
Dinwiddie found himself at 5 under after 10 holes and only a bogey on the 14th, where he tried to hit a hard 7-iron when he would have used a 6, kept him from posting a lower score.
Poe was coming off a victory in the Tillinghast Invitational Senior at Johnson City Country Club and continued his solid play on Saturday.
“I have been hitting it well lately,” Poe said. “I had a lot of good looks at birdie but just couldn’t get anything to go.
“But Tim’s good play just drug me along. It was fun out there.”
Sunday’s final round of the Tri-Cities Amateur Tour event begins at 8 a.m. with flight play. The senior flight tees off at 10:24 with the championship flight starting at 11:09.