MISSION — Pat O’Donnell and Byron Patton rode side by side in their golf cart back to the clubhouse at Wildhorse Golf Course full of smiles. The pair joked that the cart was really the magic behind their excellent opening rounds at the Senior Oregon Open Invitational.

O’Donnell and Patton, both of Portland, turned Wildhorse into their home course Tuesday, putting up the two best scores of the day. Patton shot a 5-under-par 67 round, but even he was left looking up the leaderboard at his pairing partner and O’Donnell’s 65.

The two are golfing buddies even outside of tournament life, playing rounds at Broadmoor Golf Course in northeast Portland. Their golf days together span 20 years and two professional careers, settling now into a perfect give-and-take groove.

“He’s easy to play with,” Patton said.

“I put up with him,” O’Donnell interrupted. “He’s my date when I’m away from the wife.”

O’Donnell’s round started out with dominance and had a real chance to go even lower. Opening action on the 10th tee Tuesday morning, the golfer went on a tear, shooting a minus-5 through the first seven holes.

He eagled the No. 13, a 508-yard par-5 hole — one of two eagles for O’Donnell during the round — and added five birdies.

“I?just had the pom-poms out rooting him on, you know,” Patton said. “At one point, I thought he was really going to go low. I thought, ‘Man, this is really going to be fun.’ ”

O’Donnell, who has finished as high as runner-up at the Senior Oregon Open in his three years playing in the 50-and-up tournament for pros in the Northwest, said he sunk some solid shots. But the round was nothing unworldly.

“What do you think, Byron?” O’Donnell asked his playing partner. “I just made a couple real good shots. It wasn’t a great ball striking round, I didn’t think...”

“I’ve seen him hit it better,” Patton offered.

“...Yeah. It just got it done,” O’Donnell finished.

Wildhorse Golf Course has hosted the senior tournament in each of the last 10 years and Patton has played in each of the last five. It’s a setting he loves, surrounded by the warmer weather of Eastern Oregon and a course that he keeps learning more about.

And familiarity breeds better scores.

“This golf course is just a lot of fun to play and the more you play it the more you pick up on the little things,” Patton said. “The greens can be awfully tough.”

O’Donnell and Patton have one of the latest tee times today, hitting the course in the heat of the day at 2:25 p.m. All but a handful of the golfers in the field will have started their chase of the Round 1 pace setters prior to then.

Patton’s second-place score of 67 sits two strokes ahead of the next closest competitor, but there’s a hoard of golfers lurking at 69.

Eight golfers are tied at 3-under in a log jam for third place: Jay Sutton, Lon Hinkle, Mark Gardner, Steve Stull, Michael Kloenne Chuck Milne, Mike Gove and Don Balke.

Today’s second round starts at 7:30 a.m. with tee times running until 2:30 p.m. before Thursday’s final round to decide the tournament winner.

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Contact AJ Mazzolini at ajmazzolini@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0839.

 

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