MANCHESTER >> As the first day of the 110th Vermont Amateur came to a close on a balmy Tuesday afternoon at the Ekwanok Country Club, the top of the leaderboard had many of the familiar names from years past.
Last year's winner, Alex Rainville (St. Johnsbury CC) was one of three players who shot a 1-over 71 on a tough course. Bryan Smith, seventh last year out of Jay Peak Golf Course, was also 1-over.
But the surprise of the day came from Stephen Richards, out of the Burlington Country Club, who is tied at the top at 1-over.
"I feel like I left a lot out there," Rainville said after signing his scorecard. "I'm hanging in there at 1-over."
Rainville birdied five holes — No. 1, 7, 10, 14 and 16 — but also had six bogeys and four 3-putts.
"I started decent and hit the ball really well today, a lot better than the first round last year," said Rainville, who shot 77 on opening day last year. "I only missed one or two greens, I need to get the speed for tomorrow. The 3-putts weren't far away, I kept hitting it too hard."
Two more are a shot behind at 72, including Kim Perry and Frankie Sanborn, and then four more at 73, including the top local finisher, 2010 Burr and Burton grad and Manchester Country Club's Dan Favreau.
"I hit the ball really well, you have to hit your spots and stay below the hole if possible," said Favreau, whose score held up as he was part of the day's second group. "If you don't keep it on the fairway, you can put up some high numbers."
Favreau was consistent for most of the round, birdieing No. 7 and 11 before getting a double bogey at No. 16.
He cited working for the past eight years as a caddie at Ekwanok for his knowledge of the course.
"I've seen all the shots out here, but you still have to hit the shots," Favreau said. "Other guys out here have to think a lot more, where to miss or where not to be. For me, it's second nature."
Ben Spittle, Cameron O'Connell and Eric Lajeunesse — who was sixth last year — are also at 73.
Manchester Country Club's Chris Antonez led a group of eight players who finished at 4-over 74. Ekwanok's Walker Allen and four-time Amateur winner Hans Albertsson are both at 5-over, as is Mount Anthony Country Club's Taylor Bellemare. Bellemare, who is originally from Hoosick Falls, N.Y., was the top local player in 2015 as he finished 13th overall.
"I had a slow start today, 3-over after five (holes). The [back] nine was much better, after birdieing 10 and making a bunch of pars," Bellemare said. "I'm right in the mix, four [shots] back."
Bellemare double-bogeyed No. 5, but came back with a birdie at the par-5 10th.
"There's only two par-5's on the course and you have to take advantage of that," Bellemare said. "I did on 10 and got up and down for birdie."
Bellemare started the tournament last year with a first-round 80, so his start this time around puts him in contention.
"I'm right in the middle of it now," Bellemare said.
Manchester Country Club's (and BBA's) Cooper Bleakie is 6-over after opening the tournament with a 76. Dorset Field Club member Mike Rollyson is 7-over, while Ekwanok Club Champion Craig Stevens is 8-over after a 78.
Mount Anthony CC's Cory Jozefiak fired a 79, while Ekwanok's Paul Heffernan Jr. is 10-over 80.
Manchester CC's Hunter Caler is +11, as is Dorset's Keith Komline.
Logan Ripley, from Mount Anthony finished with an 83, with Dorset's Thomas Deck at 84. MACC's Shane Becker is also at 84.
Rainville said he's not worried as the defending champion of the event.
"It's four rounds, I'm just trying to stay in as much as anyone else. I think they might make it a little tougher tomorrow," Rainville said.
For scoring online, go to the Vermont Golf Association web site at www.vtga.org.