Grant Traylor: Wagner, de Jonge treat Virginia Tech fans to good play
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- There was plenty of burgundy and orange filing through the grounds Thursday during the first round of The Greenbrier Classic.
All the contingent of Virginia Tech Hokies backers were left smiling as well after their alums -- Johnson Wagner and Brendon de Jonge -- finished high on the leaderboard.
"These are guys that we've watched growing up while they were in college," said Bob Hayes of Radford, Va. "It's pretty fun to see them out here, especially with The Greenbrier only an hour and a half away."
Hayes was one of a multitude of fans running around with VT gear on or even stickers that said "Johnson Wagner" on them.
Wagner, the 33-year-old native of Charlotte, N.C., gave his fans plenty to cheer about.
He is tied for the lead after firing an 8-under-par 62. The round came despite Wagner shooting par over each of the last six holes -- considered some of the scoring holes on the par-70 Old White TPC course.
Wagner started out hot, collecting birdies on four holes in a five-hole stretch on the front nine. The stretch helped Wagner to a 29 on the front, his best on the PGA Tour.
The momentum continued as his round was punctuated on No. 12 when he chipped in for eagle on the par-5. However, he leveled out a bit over his last six holes, missing several birdie opportunities, including a 10-foot putt at 16.
His low start generated thoughts of a 59 -- the number Stuart Appleby shot at The Greenbrier in 2010.
"(I birdied No. 9 for 29 -- maybe my first competitive 29 on the PGA Tour, which was cool," Wagner said. "Then the 59 thought started creeping in. (I) blocked it out for a few holes and birdied 11, chipped in for eagle on 12, and then the 59 thoughts really got in my mind...
"I've been disappointed with 72s and 79s last month, so I'm very happy to be disappointed with a 62 today."
While much of the talk was about Wagner's play, some was about his clean-shaven face after he ridded himself of an, ahem, unique mustache.
Wagner laughed off the talk of the mustache.
"I mean, it will definitely come back at some point," Wagner said. "I love irritating my wife too much with it to let it go for too long."
Wagner said he noted the Virginia Tech fans in the crowd, and said the round was a blast with the support he had.
"When I'm playing well, I want everybody that I know to be out following me," Wagner said. "I love putting on a good show for my family and friends."
In addition to Wagner, de Jonge also had a quality round, firing a 66 to put himself in the thick of contention.
For de Jonge, it was consistency that paved the way. He hit 13 of 14 fairways in the afternoon and 15 of 18 greens en route to his round of 4-under.
Wagner said the sense of school pride made it a special day.
"It's great," Wagner said. "For years, I've wanted to be paired with him (de Jonge) Saturday and Sunday when it mattered. We've been close a couple of times, but it would be cool for us to be fighting it out coming down the stretch."
CLASSIC PATRIOTISM: With Thursday being the Fourth of July, there were several symbols to celebrate America's birthday.
In addition to John Daly's "stars and stripes" pants from his Loudmouth brand apparel sponsor, the tourney's first day also featured an American flag as the 18th hole flag and military personnel who served as the marshals for the hole.
WALK IN THE PARK: Jin Park started his day by holing out from 50 feet on No. 1. Park later rode the momentum to a 6-under 64. It was Park's low round of the year.
Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).
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