This summer and last summer, Tony Traci has been forced to choose between the local Frank B. Fuhrer Jr. Invitational and the PGA Professional National Championship. Thanks to an opening-round 3-under 69 Monday in the Tri-State PGA Championship, Traci has himself in good position to make that choice again next summer.
Traci's round included seven birdies and put him in sole possession of the lead of this 36-hole tournament at Montour Heights Country Club.
"It's playing a little bit long, because it's wet out there, but the course is in great shape," said Traci, a pro at Allegheny Country Club. Spurts of rain Monday did dampen the course, but never halted play. "I don't know why I'm the only one under 70."
The top six finishers qualify for the 2013 PGA Professional National Championship, June 23-26 in Oregon. With that in mind, seven others posted scores under par, keeping the pressure on Traci heading into the second and final round. Pete Micklewright, Adam Corson and Kevin Shields sit tied for second at 2 under, and Craig Weis, Ty Roush, Scott Davis and Joe Boros are another stroke back. Seven more carded 72s, including Ray Vucinich, also of Allegheny Country Club, and Mark Richard of Montour Heights.
The top six likely face the same choice Traci has made the past two years. Typically, the Fuhrer Invitational at Fox Chapel Golf Club falls on the same weekend as the PGA National Championship. Though he qualified for the PGA National Championship through the Tri-State PGA, Traci instead opted twice for the Fuhrer event.
"Mr. Fuhrer has done so much for local golf, I feel we should support him here," Traci said. "It's our national championship, you definitely want to play in that, but Mr. Fuhrer is so nice to us, you feel like you should stay."
Recently, Traci finished 16th at the Fuhrer Invitational, and in 2011 he tied for 18th.
Traci began Monday with five birdies on the first seven holes. He missed a 10-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 fourth hole, before settling for birdie, as well as adding birdies on No. 5 and the par-3 seventh.
"A birdie on No. 7 was a good one to get," Traci said. "It's a hard hole."
Two holes later, though, Traci shanked a sand wedge out of a bunker, and struggled with two three-putts on the back-nine, posting a 37 coming in, compared to a 32 on his opening nine.
"There's a long way to go, so just keep plugging," Traci said of his thoughts after his strong start.
The first tee time is 8 a.m. today.
Douglas Farmer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @D_Farmer.