Sanchez grabs Adirondack Open lead

LAKE PLACID – Javier Sanchez took the first-round lead Wednesday in the Adirondack Senior Open golf tournament, firing a 6-under-par 65 on the sun-drenched, par 71 Whiteface Club and Resort course in Lake Placid.

The 54-hole event is the northernmost stop on the Sunbelt Senior Golf Tour for players 45 years of age and older.

Sanchez, of Fayetteville, Ga., had no blemishes on his card in posting six birdies, and holds a two-stroke advantage over Tim Conley.

The second-place player, from Braselton, Ga., gave up three shots to par when he bogeyed the par four ninth hole and double bogeyed the par five 18th. Conley’s double bogey on the final hole came when his second shot went into a spruce tree to the left of the green and never came down, which resulted in a two-stroke penalty. Conley closed with a 4-under par 67 on the strength of seven birdies. He had 10 threes on his scorecard.

Tim Balmer, of North Lauderdale, Fla., is another two shots back, in third place, after an opening 69, while Jim Chancey, of Kissimmee, Fla., and Gary Odom, from Greenwood, S.C., are next, in a tie for fourth place at 1-under 70.

Another victory for the 54-year-old Sanchez would continue the script of a most unlikely story. The 2012 Sunbelt Senior Tour money leader has played in five U.S. Opens and three U.S. Senior Opens in his career. He won the inaugural Adirondack Senior Open at the Whiteface Club two years ago.

This was not foreseen when, as a 17-year-old, he crossed the Mexican border illegally to live in California with his aunt and uncle. Four years later, while working on a golf course maintenance crew in Palo Alto, he hit his first golf shots. Sanchez’s rapid improvement – after three years he was a scratch player – enabled him to attend Canada College in Redwood City, Calif., and play on its golf team for two years before turning professional.

Two months ago, Sanchez was inducted into the California Golf Hall of Fame. In July, the affable player entered the Canada College Hall of Fame.

Wednesday’s opening round followed Tuesday’s pro-am and silent auction that benefitted the United States Luge Team.

Tournament action was scheduled to resume early today with the final round on tap Friday morning.

Spectators are welcomed free of charge.