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Hicks takes early lead in Panama

Thu 1st, March 2012

Panama City, Panama (Sports Network) - Justin Hicks fired a six-under 64 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the Panama Claro Championship.

Hicks, who missed the cut two weeks ago in Colombia, owns two wins on the Nationwide Tour.

Justin Bolli, a three-time winner on the Nationwide Tour, carded a five-under 65 and is alone in second place. Edward Loar and Martin Piller are one stroke back at minus-four and Tyrone Van Aswegen is alone in fifth at three-under 67.

Four players are tied for fifth at two-under 68 at Club de Golf de Panama.

Andres Echavarria was the only player not to finish his round on Thursday. The second round will start as scheduled at 7 a.m. (ET), while Echavarria will finish his first round at 8:15 a.m.

Hicks carded three birdies on the back nine before running into trouble around the turn. He faltered to bogeys on the second and third to tumble back to minus-one.

The 37-year-old Hicks quickly got those two strokes back with a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-five fourth. He followed with birdies on five and six to grab comfortable lead at minus-five.

Hicks birdied the par-three eighth before parring the last to lead by one.

"A friend of mine looks at these early events as a pre-season and I think I understand why. We're a little bit out of our element down here. You're messing around with new clubs, you're taking shuttles, you're in a foreign country," said Hicks, who failed to Monday qualify for the PGA Tour's Honda Classic this week.

"You have to be willing to roll with some punches so to speak. It's one round of golf, you've got three more to go."

Bolli started his round with birdies on 11 and 13. He reeled off seven consecutive pars from the 14th.

On the front nine, Bolli converted back-to-back birdie efforts from the third. After four more pars, he closed out a bogey-free round with a birdie on the ninth.

"I've stopped trying so hard and putting pressure on myself to get off to a good start because I've never played that well," admitted Bolli. "I used to think you needed a fast start, but it's such a long year. You could be playing terrible right now and play great in June, July and August and then it doesn't matter if you're bad at the beginning of the year. I haven't contended early on and so I don't have any high expectations coming in here."

NOTES: Travis Hampshire withdrew during the round with a shoulder injury, while Michael Letzig withdrew after carding a 79...Bubba Dickerson had a hole- in-one on the par-three 17th.

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