Nick Hardy Shoots 65 for Early First-Round Lead at 2013 U.S. Amateur August 11, 2013 By Pete Kowalski, USGA

Steven Fox, the 2012 U.S. Amateur champion, shot a 2-over 72 at The Country Club in the first round of stroke play. (USGA/John Mummert)

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Nick Hardy, 17, of Northbrook, Ill., a high school senior, shot 5-under-par 65 at Charles River Country Club to take the lead at the midway point of the first day of stroke play at the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship.

Hardy posted six birdies, including four on his inward nine, against one bogey on the 6,547-yard, par-70 Donald Ross layout, the championship stroke-play companion course in nearby Newton.

I gave myself a lot of opportunities at the beginning of the round and I birdied No. 4 and No. 8, Hardy said. I also hit a lot of fairways and greens to get off to a good start. Good ball-striking is one of my strengths.

Hardy, who advanced to the second round of match play at the 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur and plans to attend the University of Illinois, recently played a round of golf with NBA great Michael Jordan. His confidence was boosted by his finish at the Junior Amateur.

It helped me prepare for [the Amateur], Hardy said. It feels great to be competing against the best. I’m going to stay aggressive at The Country Club.

Four players were two strokes back at 3-under-par 67: Englishmen Neil Raymond, 27, and Matthew Fitzpatrick, 18, the low amateur at the 2013 British Open; Bryson Dechambeau, 19, of Clovis, Calif., and Tyler Klava, 21, of Pace, Fla.

At The Country Club, which is 7,310 yards and par 70, Raymond posted five birdies and two bogeys in his first U.S. Amateur. He carried his own bag and prefers to use a pull cart when he plays, but opted against one because of the heavy rough.

I fought my way around the course pretty well and didn’t make any rash decisions, Raymond said. I kept it in play and out of the rough. I was pretty aggressive to be honest and was taking a lot of shots on. I wanted to be aggressive because you lay back around here, you’re miles in to every hole.

With hopes of making the 2013 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, Raymond played the best round of the morning wave of play at The Country Club.

This is as good as my golfing memories can have [to shoot 67] at 7,300 yards, par 70 with deepest rough and smallest greens I’ve ever seen, Raymond said. It will sit with me for a very long time. It’s the toughest golf course I’ve ever played given the length of the rough, the green size and the length. No.18 is the smallest target I’ve ever seen for a green.

The other three players who shot 67 – Fitzpatrick, the 2012 British Boys champion who will play golf at Northwestern University in the fall; Dechambeau, who plays at Southern Methodist University and won the 2013 Trans-Miss Championship; and Klava – all played at Charles River.

Defending champion Steven Fox, 22, of Hendersonville, Tenn., opened with a 2-over-par 72 at The Country Club. Jordan Niebrugge, 19, of Mequon, Wis., the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, shot 1-under 69 at Charles River.

Pete Kowalski is the director of championship communications for the USGA. E-mail him at pkowalski@usga.org.