In his second season in the Philadelphia Section PGA, Brett Melton is getting to know the area courses, as well as the local tournaments and their significance.
The Radley Run assistant professional realizes he's competing in an important event this week, the 114th Philadelphia Open at St. Davids Golf Club, where his 4-under-par 66 on Wednesday staked him to a one-stroke lead midway through the 36-hole Golf Association of Philadelphia major.
"I didn't really know much about it until I entered the section," said Melton, who moved to the area from Vincennes, Ind. "The 114 next to the name says that it's something special."
Melton, the section player of the year in 2017, held a narrow advantage over three players who shot 67: Huntingdon Valley amateur Jeff Osberg, the 2016 Open champion, and two Philadelphia Section PGA members –_George Forster of Radnor Valley and Philmont's Dave Quinn, the 2006 champion of this event.
Two more section pros, Zac Oakley of Waynesborough and Alex Knoll of Bethlehem, were next at 68. A group of nine players were tied at 69 including Shawnee's Brian Bergstol, who shared low professional honors last year.
Melton went bogey-free over St. Davids, designed by legendary architect Donald Ross. His last of four birdies, a two-putt par on his 17th hole – the par-5 eighth – pushed him to first place alone. But he was more pleased with a pair of par-saving putts, an 8-footer on No. 12 and a 12-footer on No. 6.
"With Donald Ross, his golf courses are great, but there are pitfalls to them," he said. "You can't short-side yourself because it's difficult to get up and down [for par]. You just can't be on the wrong side of the hole."
Osberg, the 2016 Open champion who is the only amateur in the top six, almost didn't make it to his opening tee shot. He broke a rib 3 ½ weeks ago, and when he tried to hit some practice balls last weekend for the first time since suffering the injury, he hurt his back.
"There was a small chance that I wasn't going to play but I loosened up and I played pretty much pain-free on my first nine," he said, speaking of the back nine at St. Davids where he went 4-under including an eagle on the par-5 16th.
However, he started feeling pain on his second nine, where he carded three birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey, but gutted it out. He said later, "I hope with a late tee time [Thursday] I can work on it and feel better before I get to the course."
Forster, who at 62 is one of the oldest contestants in the field, went without a bogey his entire round while picking up three birdies. Quinn finished with four birdies and a bogey on his card.