Wichita, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - Aaron Watkins used seven birdies and no bogeys to take a 1-shot lead after the first round of the Air Capital Classic Thursday in Wichita, Kansas.
Watkins, who is seeking his first career victory, made five of his birdies on the back nine at Crestview Country Club and currently sits at 7-under-par 63.
Amateur Ollie Schniederjans also had a strong back nine, making five birdies including three straight to close out his round. He is tied with Brad Elder and Gavin Coles at 6-under 64.
Blayne Barber, Sam Saunders, Albin Choi, Paul Claxton, Andres Gonzales and Brock Mackenzie are all tied for fifth at 5-under 65.
Jonathan Randolph, Jonathan Fricke, Matt Fast, Tom Gillis and Sebastian Cappelen all shot 66, putting them at 4-under through one round.
Watkins has played in six events this year and has yet to break into the top 10. His best finish came two weeks ago at the Cleveland Open when he tied for 14th.
Watkins was in the middle of the pack through nine holes at 2-under with birdies at Nos. 1 and 5, but he surged up the leaderboard with five birdies on the back nine, including three straight from No. 10.
After a par on 13, Watkins birdied 14 and 15 before finishing up with three pars, putting him at 7-under for the tournament.
"It's always good to be back," Watkins said. "Pretty much every hole out here sets up for me. So it's something that I can look back on."
Watkins has improved his putting stroke of late, and it has paid off so far after recording just 25 putts in the first round.
"Seeing the ball go in is always helpful," Watkins said. "It's been kind of a struggle early in the year, but it's been going in the right direction the last couple of weeks."
Schniederjans also tore up the back nine at Crestview Country Club. Starting the day with a bogey at No. 1, Schniederjans made birdies at Nos. 4 and 9 before making the turn. Pars at 10 and 11 still had him at 1-under, but birdies on 12 and 14 moved him to 3-under.
Schniederjans finished strong, making three straight birdies from the 16th to put him at 6-under on the day.
Coles began the day on the back nine and made the turn at just 2-under before making a big move up the leaderboard. Coles followed up a par at No. 1 with four straight birdies from No. 2. He would close out the round with four straight pars.
Elder also started on the back nine and jumped out to a quick start with birdies on 10 and 11. A bogey at 13 dropped Elder back to 1-under, but he would get that shot back with a birdie on 16. He would make the turn with two straight pars before another birdie at No. 1.
Elder then made five consecutive pars followed by three straight birdies from No. 7 to close out his round.
NOTES: Watkins also carded a first-round 63 in the 2008 Air Capital Classic. He finished the tournament in 11th place following a 68-69-69 stretch over his final 54 holes ... Elder won the Air Capital Classic in 1999 and 2007 ... Schneiderjans' 64 is the lowest score by an amateur in this event.