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Killeen among the leaders at Midwest Classic

J.J. Killeen fired an eight-under 63 on leaders after the first round of the Midwest Classic.

Nicholas Thompson, Travis Hampshire and Brian Vranesh joined Killeen atop the leaderboard at Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.

Killeen won two of his last three starts on the Nationwide Tour and with another victory, he'd earn an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour.

"It'd be great to win again," said Killeen. "I've got the same mentality I had for the other two events. If I'm lucky enough to win and play in a couple of tour events at the end of the year that'd be great but at the same time it's really good to know that I'll be there at the start of next year."

Killeen is second on the Nationwide Tour money list and with the top 25 on that list at the end of the year making the PGA Tour, Killeen is a lock to play on the bigger stage next season.

"Everybody's goal out here is to move onto the PGA Tour and knowing that you're already doing that does feel like you are playing with house money and so you're a little calmer," said Killeen.

He began on the back nine Thursday and Killeen notched a pair of birdies at 12 and 13. Killeen added birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to make the turn at four-under par.

Killeen parred his first two on the second side, then rattled off back-to-back birdies at three and four. He birdied the seventh to reach seven-under par and his birdie at his last got him into a tie for first.

Thompson tallied an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey for his 63, while Hampshire had 10 birdies and two bogeys on Thursday. Vranesh, the last to join the lead, posted nine birdies and a bogey.

Monday qualifiers Will Dodson and Chris Thompson are tied for fifth at seven- under 64.

Jin Park, James Sacheck, Richard T. Lee, Won Joon Lee, Scott Weatherly, Jason Kokrak, Aaron Goldberg, James Nitties and Brock Mackenzie share seventh at minus-six.

NOTES: Thompson is the only other co-leader besides Killeen to have won on the Nationwide Tour...The four-way tie for first place is the most players tied after 18 holes this year...Doug Barron withdrew on Thursday due to injury.