Pro or no, Luke Tanner was the best player on Day 1 in the Navajo Trail Open.
Although his bogey-free 66 will count toward the Championship Flight of the amateur standings - not the professional leaderboard - the Fort Lewis College standout shone brightest on a sunny, breeze-free first round at Hillcrest Golf Club.
Tanner, who intends to go pro after attempting to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at either Las Cruces, N.M., or Phoenix in July, said it's been a long time coming.
"I felt like I could have been playing better all year," he said. "This round kind of helps that thought."
Tanner sunk a 10-footer for par on No. 12 and a seven-foot save on No. 6 to finish Friday without a blemish. The 2008 Navajo Trail amateur champion - by six strokes - hopes to make a habit of upending professionals.
"I just consider that one big leaderboard," Tanner said. "My plan is to turn pro in a couple months, so I want to make sure I can compete."
It seems like a safe bet.
"He's a hell of a player," said FLC coach Bud Andersen, who shot 78. "That's just the way he can play.
"I think he wants to show that he can play with the pros," Andersen said. "Playing as an amateur, he's kind of had this mentality that he belongs playing with the big boys, and he showed it (Friday)."
Keystone's Remington Post and California's Brett Viboch, two golfers taking their first hacks at Hillcrest, recorded 67s to pace the "official" professionals.
"I was expecting to play well," said Post, who also did not drop a stroke. "I've been playing well, I've just been struggling with the putter, and I got the putter going (Friday). I only missed the green three times, and I got up and down three times."
"It's a tough golf course," Post said. "If you make mistakes, you get penalized. I didn't make any mistakes. I don't know how many times that happens in a career, but it happened (Friday)."
Viboch had a rockier run of things, with missed birdie opportunities on No. 1 and No. 3 and a bogey on No. 4, but rallied back with five birdies over his next seven holes.
"(Thursday) was my first day on the golf course," said Viboch, a former college player at UC-Davis and Chico State. "I actually hit it better (Thursday) and shot a worse score. I learned a lot about the greens, which helped me so much with where to position my approach shots and where to miss the ball."
Ex-champion Micah Rudosky from Cortez joined Tucson's Josh Wilks and Albuquerque's Bill Harvey at 69.
"I feel fortunate, really," said the lefty Rudosky, a club pro at Conquistador Golf Club. "I played terrible the front nine. I hit some good shots on the back and made some putts to shoot 4 under on the back."
Rudosky birdied 10, 11 and 12.
Amateur Kermitt Barrett also shot 69, sitting runner-up to Tanner.
University of Colorado star Pat Grady was close behind the leaders with a 70, despite being less than satisfied by his effort around the greens. Co-Male Athlete of the Year at CU, Derek Tolan shot a 73.
"I was making bogeys from 80 yards," said Grady, in his second pro event (he and Tolan tied for fifth in the Socorro Open in New Mexico). "Just stupid. I think a fourth-grader could have shot 70 from where my tee ball was."
Bobby Kalinowski, a former Durango golfer who lives in Arizona, and Colorado Spring's Mike Northern filled out the top scores with a couple of familiar faces at 71.
"I didn't shoot myself out of the tournament, but I didn't do myself any favors," Kalinowski said. "Just kind of one of those rounds.
"I really thought I should have put a round in the 60s (Friday)," Kalinowski said, adding that the elevation difference between Arizona and Colorado is a challenge for him. "It was really good weather, and the course was perfect. No excuses other than the player."
Northern, a winner in 2003 and 2004, has missed the last two events while trying to focus on the National Club Pro. He birdied the final two holes to get back to even.
"I left myself above the hole a lot (Friday), and you can't do that out here," Northern said.
Another former champion, Jay Osmon is 1 over at 72.
Ken Carpenter, who finished as runner-up to Utah's Boyd Summerhays in 2008, had a tough day and finished with an 83.
Superintendent Ken Kirby and Will Hertz received a bevy of praise for their course preparation, a process that started in March.
"We feel good about it," Kirby said. "The crew's put in a lot of hard work this year to get the place where it's at. Without the crew, we don't look good, so we're proud of them."
The greens, always fast at Hillcrest, still managed to surprise some old foes.
"They're as fast as I've ever seen them," Kalinowski said. "You need to try to stay below the hole."
Rudosky agreed, calling them "fantastic."
"It was really nice to play out here," he said.
Ben Curtis was the low man from the blue tees, carding a 68 with a 5 handicap for the day's low net score of 63.