Jake Owen, Dawson Armstrong Highlight Day 1 of the Nashville Golf Open

nashville golf open
Jake Owen (left) and Dawson Armstrong (right) share smiles after Thursday's Nashville Golf Open.

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.—Day 1 of the Nashville Golf Open at the Nashville Golf & Athletic Club, headlined by local star Dawson Armstrong, country music star Jake Owen, and a pair of former Master’s champs, is in the books.

One-hundred fifty-six golfers competed in the first day of the web.com Tour, with Columbian Sebastián Muñoz (minus-7) tied atop the leaderboard with Americans Josh Teater and Lanto Griffin.

Munoz’s round was highlighted by an eagle from the rough on hole No. 3, with a lone bogey on No. 12. The 25-year-old ranks 14th on the 2018 Web.com money list.

Teater’s ace on the 153-yard 14th hole was one of the day’s highlights. His bogey on the next hole, a 569-yard par 5, was the only blemish on his day. He sits 53rd on the Web.com money list.

Griffin had eagles on a pair of par-five holes, the 573-yard 13th hole as well as No. 15. A double-bogey on nine kept the 29-year-old from sole possession of the lead.

Americans Conner Godsey, Chris Naegel and former University of Tennessee golfer Rick Lamb all finished a shot off the lead.

The course wasn’t so kind to a pair of former Master’s winners, Mike Weir (2003) and Angel Cabrera (2009, and also the 2007 U.S. Open champ).

Weir ended the day at even in a 21-way tie for 79th, while Cabrera (plus-7) ended the day 153rd.

The tournament runs through Sunday, May 27. The total purse is $550,000, with the winner taking home $99,000.

The tournament also benefits the Snedeker Foundation. Brandt Snedeker, a 37-year old graduate of Montgomery Bell Academy and Vanderbilt University, runs the foundation with his wife, Mandy. It has has raised over a million dollars for local charities across Middle Tennessee.

Snedeker, who has won eight PGA events, is the 92nd-ranked player in the world.

Jake Owen smiles after a chip-in.

Owen lives the dream

Owen finished the day plus-14, eight shots behind the next-closest competitor.

You’d have never guessed it. Owen beamed during his round and after it, interacting with the crowd and with fellow golfers throughout the afternoon.

That’s because Thursday was a dream come true for the 36-year-old.

Long before music was an option, Owen dreamed of becoming a professional golfer before a wake boarding accident wrecked his shoulder and ended that dream.

He offered this take on his day, with a smile.

“There was lots of good. I had three bad holes,” Owen said. “I had a couple doubles, hit the ball out of bounds off the tee, then, on 18, I hit two out of bounds off the tee. That doesn’t help. That adds up to a nine. A niner! Other that those three holes, I actually played pretty well. At the end of the day, it’s so cool to be out here with these guys.”

Owen played with family members watching. That included his father, Steve, a cancer survivor who was scheduled to caddy for Jake this week. But after four holes of a practice round on Wednesday, his father decided against it.

Still, dad was on hand to follow son around the course, which resulted in one of the day’s more humorous and memorable moments.

Owen, who started on No. 10, came around to play the 599-yard seventh hole near the end of his day. He described the experience this way.

“I looked over at (Steve) after I piped a drive on seven, and he knew what I was thinking, because I wanted to go for it. And he just looked at me and he went, basically, ‘don’t do it.’ Which basically for me meant, ‘do it,’” Jake said.

“And I hit a super great three-wood right at the green, and it was in a bad lie, I hit it in the trap from there. It was a pretty great shot from where I was, but the trap shot wasn’t good, I hit it over the green, and the only thing I was thinking at the time was, if I don’t make par here, he’s going to hold this over me for the rest of the night.

“So, I stepped over the chip shot and just said, ‘just make this,’ and I made it. That’s what keeps you going in golf.”

Owen’s sand shot came from the right side of the green, and sailed all the way off the other side into the second cut of rough. From there, Owen chipped in to save par from about 40 feed. You may see the shot here.

Owen described the difference between himself and the field this way.

“They can hit a shot that’s not so great and then move on, because they’re confident in the next shot. For those of us who are amateurs, hit a bad shot, and its really hard to let go of that, because you hit the other two dead-left, to think, ‘No worries, I’m going to hit this dead down the middle,” he said.

Dawson Armstrong lines up a shot.

A nice debut for Armstrong

Armstrong, a Brentwood native, recently made the decision to skip his senior year at Lipscomb University and go pro.

Thursday marked his professional debut, which came on his home course, finishing tied for 41st at the end of Day 1. 

“I was looking at the scorecard over there a few minutes ago, and thinking, this was my first PGA Tour-santioned round as a professional, shooting 70 on a fairly tough golf course. It was a big moment for me,” Armstrong said.

On the whole, he was pleased.

“I stayed really patient today, I kept in the zone, stayed in the moment, not let who I was playing with distract me,” Armstrong said. “I really felt like I did a good job of executing the thought process before shots.

“I never really put myself in an awful position where it was hard to make a par. So, that was a big bonus for me.”

Playing in front of friends and family, Dawson had an inauspicious start. He began his round at the 211-yard hole No. 10, a par-three, which he double-bogeyed.

That was by far his worst hole of the day. The college All-American birdied four more holes the rest of the way.

Armstrong was paired with Owen and Steve Wheatcroft. He and Owen spent a good chunk of time afterwards introducing the other to family and friends.

The two also compared finishes on No. 7 where Armstrong sunk about a 30-foot putt for birdie.

“He’s got the game to play better tomorrow,” he said of Owen. “He’s going to be much more loose tomorrow, which will be a lot more enjoyable than today, which was a lot of fun as well. He’s a great guy to play with.”