Rhea, a former Science Hill player now at East Tennessee State, shot a 6-under 66 to sit three shots back of leader Hunter Wolcott.
Wolcott made the turn at 3 under but carded six birdies on the back nine. The University of Tennessee golfer from Burns held a one-shot lead over Austin Peay’s Austin Lancaster of Hendersonville.
Kingsport’s Austin Carter was in a group tied for eighth after a 5-under 67. The Sullivan South alum who also plays for ETSU had eight birdies but made three bogeys.
A total of 62 players shot under par on Tuesday.
Chad Couch and Chase Roswall, both of Bristol, were in group tied for 47th after a 71 and Church Hill’s Lucas Armstrong shot 74 to sit tied at 85th. Jonesborough’s Alex Bradford and Kingsport’s William Nottingham opened with 75s, one stroke ahead of Bruce Bowen of Bristol and former Sullivan South star Cayman Ratliff.
The field will be cut to 60 and ties following Wednesday’s second round. The tournament will conclude Thursday.
Click here to see the first-round results.