SAN JACINTO, California—Nick Cantlay almost went bogey-free Tuesday during the first round of the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament at Soboba Springs Golf Club. That would have been quite the feat as those playing in the afternoon had to contend with wind gusting to 20 mph, a little rain and cool temperatures. None of it seemed to bother Cantlay as the California native and former Long Beach State golfer used three birdies and an eagle against his one late bogey to shoot a 68. He will take a one-shot lead into the second round, ahead of fellow Long Beach State 49er Ben Lein and amateur Briggs Duce. Four more players—amateur Hunter Epson, Derek Castillo, Lloyd Jefferson Go and George Markham—are two shots behind.

“All in all, it was just really, really hard out there. The wind was blowing the ball around on the green. It was tough, and I was just glad to have a good score on the back (nine),” Cantlay said following his round. “I was just playing well, some good things happened to me and it all worked out.” 

Cantlay posted his 68, taking advantage of Soboba Springs par-5s. He began his round quickly, with a birdie at No. 1 and then eagled the par-5 fifth, with seven other pars on a clean, front-nine scorecard. 

He called holes 13 and 15 “really tough” but granted the results were “good birdies there.” He played that part of his round during the worst of the wind.

Cantlay is certainly familiar with the golf course, having played in a Golden State Tour tournament three weeks ago and then finishing 10th at a Swing Thought Tour tournament here last week. 

Lein was more than satisfied with his 69 after not playing much competitive golf for more than a year. The PGA TOUR Series-China veteran has played in 63 previous tournaments in that part of the world, beginning in the Series’ inaugural season of 2014. His best Series performance was a third-place finish at the 2018 Clearwater Bay Open in Hong Kong, thanks to a final-round 65. 

Despite long layoffs between competitive starts, Lein looked to be in mid-season form, making five birdies and only two bogeys in his opening 18. He birdied three of Soboba Springs’ four par-5s, including back-to-back birdies on the front nine’s only two par-5s, Nos. 5 and 6. 

“I’ve been working pretty hard the last couple of weeks, months, just to prepare for something,” said Lein, who played in the afternoon and battled the wind for almost his entire round. “I haven’t prepared for anything in over a year, so it’s definitely something a little different. I worked on a lot of things here and there, and I’m getting back into the groove of things.”

A year ago, Duce planned on attending the Qualifying Tournament scheduled here, while finishing his Wildcat college career. Instead, the pandemic hit, and the Mackenzie Tour shuttered that qualifier and all others—eventually cancelling the entire season. Duce is doing this week what he planned on taking place a year ago. 

Although Duce started slowly, with a bogey and six pars over his first seven holes, he made the turn in 1-under after consecutive birdies at his eighth and ninth holes, playing in the morning. He made it four birdies in a row when he cashed in at Nos. 1 and 2, his 10th and 11th holes. Two birdies, two bogeys and three pars rounded out his nine and a spot alongside Lein on the scoreboard. 

Following this tournament, the Sierra Vista, Arizona, native, who returned to school for an additional year, will travel with his Wildcat teammates to Augusta, Georgia, for the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational at Forest Hills Golf Club. 

In all, only 11 players were able to break par on the opening day.