Van Thomas prefers to go unnoticed early in golf tournaments.
But the Arbor View junior blew his cover on Wednesday.
Thomas fired a 3-under-par 69 at Mountain Falls Golf Club in Pahrump and is tied for second with Palo Verde’s Brandon Bauman after the first round of the Division I boys state golf tournament.
“I like being underestimated, and I like showing people what I’m made of,” Thomas said. “I knew could go low out here. I knew if I just kept my patience and got out of the way of myself the birdies would just come to me.”
Ben Davis of Shadow Ridge shot 70 and is in a three-way tie for fourth with Bishop Gorman’s Owen Rosebeck and Bradley Collet of Palo Verde. Bishop Manogue’s Nick Turner, who nearly holed out from 152 yards on the par-4 16th, leads after a 68.
Eight golfers are within four shots of Turner, setting up what should be an exciting finish Thursday.
Thomas, whose older brother, Zane, is a member of the UNLV golf team, made three birdies and one eagle during his round. The left-hander eagled the par-5 third hole and made the turn at 2 under before dropping a shot on No. 11.
Thomas’ drive on the short par 5 stopped in a puddle of mud to the left of the fairway, and he was given relief from the casual water. However, Thomas’ drop landed in a small weed, and after he punched out, he went on to three-putt.
Thomas recovered with birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 before missing a 10-footer on No. 18 that would have given him a share of the lead.
“I’ve been working a lot on my putting, and it just finally clicked on the front nine for me,” Thomas said. “I got off to a shaky start on the back nine, but I kept it together and made some clutch putts.”
Bauman went out in 34 and managed to birdie No. 11 despite a bit of bad luck. Bauman’s tee shot stopped in a divot on the right side of the fairway, and the UC Santa Barbara signee topped his second shot as a result. He then he stuck his approach to within 6 feet and drained the putt to get to 3 under.
“I made a couple putts, but I just got bad luck off the tee,” Bauman said.
Bauman birdied the par-5 15th hole — he played the par 5s in 3 under — before a bogey on No. 16. Bauman then had a chance to grab a share of the lead on No. 18, but he left his birdie putt inches short.
“I don’t mind being in the chase going into the second day,” Bauman said. “I just look forward to going out (Thursday) and giving it everything and maybe pull it off.”
Davis, a UNLV recruit and the Sunset Region champion, got off to a slow start but eagled the par-5 seventh hole and chipped in for eagle on No. 11. His only mistake on the back nine came on the difficult 14th hole when he pulled his tee shot left and ran his chip off the green on the way to a bogey 4.
“I left a lot out there,” Davis said. “But I don’t mind being a few back. I just need a better start.”
Collet birdied Nos. 3 and 10 as part of a bogey-free round. He two-putted from about 60 feet away on No. 17 and scrambled to save par on No. 18 after his drive missed the fairway to the right and landed behind a cluster of trees.
Rosebeck helped Gorman shoot 373, and the Gaels lead Palo Verde (376), Coronado (379) and Bishop Manogue (380) in a tightly-bunched race for the team title.