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Abe Winter, Published February 20 2010

Podolak shoots 4-over par on first six holes at Allianz

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Mike Podolak’s first appearance in an event affiliated with the PGA Tour in 24 years got off to a horrible start Thursday.

No, he didn’t flub his first tee shot; rather, he sent the ball straight down the fairway, reached the green in regulation and made a routine par to open the Allianz Championship at The Old Course at Broken Sound.

But he went 4-over par on the next five holes, including a double-bogey 6 on his sixth hole after another long drive. He finished his first nine with two pars and a birdie, notching a 4 on the par-5 18th – he played the back nine first – with a curling 15-foot putt for a 39.

Podolak, who played in the 1986 Masters as an amateur, came in with an even-par 36 for a first round of 3-over 75, which was 11 strokes behind leaders Jay Haas and Tom Jenkins, who each carded 8-under 64s.

Podolak, the Oxbow, N.D., resident, offered no excuses for his play.

“I just want to try and shoot a couple under par,” he said of today’s second round. “I think I can do it. I missed some good opportunities (Friday), but all in all, I’m off to a decent start.”

Podolak, who earned a sponsor’s exemption into the Champions Tour event by shooting 1-under 71 on this course Dec. 16, consistently outdrove his playing partners, Jim Roy and Rod Spittle. But they were able to make putts, Roy chipping in twice for eagles en route to a 66 and Spittle shooting a 69.

Podolak was in birdie range on his second hole, the par-5 11th, but his short chip went into a bunker and he wasn’t able to save par. A bogey on the par-3 14th came after he lipped out a 3-foot birdie putt on the 13th. It got worse on the 15th when he hit his second shot into the water and then two-putted for a 6.

“To drive it 300 yards and then hit a pitching wedge into the water, that got me spinning on the inside,” Podolak said.

On his second nine, Podolak opened with five pars, including a sand save on the par-3 third, before making birdie on the par-5 sixth. He made par on the next two holes before bogeying the last hole after hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker and pulling his second shot left of the green.

“It could have really gotten away from me, but I was 1 under the last 12 holes,” he said. “I felt like I survived a couple of train wrecks.”

Podolak was cheered by his family – wife Brenda and teenage daughters Kate and Laura – and several friends, mostly from North Dakota and Minnesota.

“This is a family vacation,” Brenda Podolak said. “We’re here to watch and support him.”

“It’s not arms and legs,” Mike Podolak said. “It’s just golf. At the end of the week, I am who I am – a salesman.”