Janson Wilborn drew raves Saturday with a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 that gave him the three-times-delayed first-round lead among the amateurs in the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational. He leads Gary Wigington and Ty Cole by four shots at Cane Creek Golf Course.
Annually one of the top 16 players on the Calhoun County Golf Tour and a finalist in the inaugural County Match Play Championship three years ago, Wilborn made four birdies on the front nine and three on the back. Only one was longer than 10 feet.
He hit 12 fairways and 15 greens. He had one-putts on each of his first four greens and had only 27 putts total.
“I told him at the end of the round it was a pleasure to watch,” said Nathan Bennett, the Jacksonville pro playing in his group. “He made it look so easy. It was one of the smoothest 65s I’ve ever seen in person.
“I told him at one point, ‘Janson, I feel like you need to scoot back here (on the back tees) with me. If you keep up like this you might consider traveling.’”
Wilborn, 29, acknowledged the edge the white tees gave him over the pros, but still was “flattered” to hear the pros’ compliments.
“That’s really nice for them to think a lot about that,” he said. “I was a little further up than they were. … If I were back there playing with those guys I’d have been a little different. But I certainly appreciate them saying those things.”
The leading pros didn’t have any trouble holding their own. David Miller extended his lead over Pensacola amateur Clayton Vannoy to two shots after a bogey-free 70. Defending champion Kyle Sapp and Nate Rau are four shots off the lead.
Miller, a former two-time All-American at Georgia and college teammate of 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson, stands at 6-under 138 for 36 Emerald Coast Tour holes. He has made six birdies and no bogeys in two days.
He hit 17 greens Saturday.
“I’m just trying to play solid golf,” the 34-year-old Daphne pro said. “I really don’t care if I win or lose; I just want to play solid. I’ll think the same thing tomorrow — play solid. You shoot 2 or 3 under tomorrow you’re going to be hard to catch.”
Miller made both of his birdies on par-5s — Nos. 8 and 14 — laying up on both holes. He knocked it on No. 5 in two, but three-putted.
Wilborn got on a roll early and stayed there. He birdied three of the first four holes in his round. Then he made three in a row coming through the turn — 9, 10 and 11 — and finished it off with one at No. 18. The birdie at 10 was his longest of the day — 17 feet.
“Here lately I’m hitting the ball really well,” he said. “It was just a matter of getting the putts to go. I’ve been working on that really hard. Naturally it felt good to see those putts go down finally.
“I’ve (had starts like that before), but I never finished the round as good as I did today. Like I said, it just came together for me as far as putting and hitting the ball.”
Wigington closed with three straight birdies to climb into the final amateur group. Cole played the back nine in 32.
There were no holes-in-one in the round, but Shane Chappell scored an eagle on the par-4 seventh.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.