Cooper Musselman estimated that he’s played the Champions Course at Keene Trace Golf Club about 50 times. Of course, none of those outings before Thursday were as part of the PGA Tour.
“It was definitely the most nerve-wracking (time), for sure,” Musselman said. “It was definitely one of the most toughest, just cause the hype of it all. I was just kind of ready for it to get here.”
Musselman and fellow University of Kentucky graduate Tyler “Chip” McDaniel were granted sponsor exemptions to the Barbasol Championship, which moved from Alabama to Kentucky this year. Musselman shot a 2-under-70, while McDaniel was 2-over through the first round on Thursday.
Musselman, a St. Xavier graduate, birdied four times and equaled that amount in bogeys. He scored an eagle on No. 2 — his group’s 11th hole — to help make himself go under for the day.
McDaniel had a tougher day, ending with six bogeys and three birdies. The former Clay County star also had an eagle, his coming on No. 17 to help him finish the day on a high note.
“The first tee was a little nervy but I ripped it down the middle and birdied the first hole,” McDaniel said. “I thought I was gonna have a good day. I handled the nerves early well but I just got a few bad breaks and started spraying at the end. I had a little fireworks on 17 and stole an eagle there. All in all it was a pretty decent day and I learned a lot.”
Musselman came in wanting to shoot a 3-under and was happy to finish close to that mark. Both men — who led UK to its 10th appearance in the NCAA championships in June — had sizable galleries, many of them sporting paraphernalia from their former school.
“After I made that first birdie, I just heard a big roar and looked over and just saw some people clapping,” Musselman said. “That was probably the most surreal feeling I’ve had. That was incredible. I’m really blessed just to have them all out here this week.”