FINDLEY LAKE, N.Y. - Michael Arnaud is familiar with the very short history of LECOM Health Challenge winners.
There is only one of them. And he was a Monday qualifier.
Arnaud, a 35-year-old Texan who lost his status on the Web.com Tour last year, made a bid Thursday to become this year's Rick Lamb.
On the heels of a 7-under 65 in Monday's qualifier at Shorewood Country Club in Dunkirk, New York, Arnaud posted the same score in his opening round to put himself in contention after Day 1 at Peek'n Peak's Upper Course. He trails first-round leader Xinjun Zhang by a shot.
The Web.com Tour is all about getting hot at the right time. Doing so can change a player's career. Just ask Lamb, who turned last year's LECOM victory into a spot on the PGA Tour after winning Peek'n Peak's qualifier and carrying that momentum through the weekend.
"I think he was in a similar boat as me," Arnaud said of Lamb. "He'd been kind of chasing the Mondays all year. He finally got through one and punched his ticket and now he's out on the big tour this year."
Arnaud, who turned pro in 2004 and has wisps of
See Dudley, C2
gray hair in his sideburns, had tried five times before this week to qualify for a Web.com event and missed out each time. He's been playing mostly on the APT Tour, tweaking things with his swing and a putting stroke that had been a major source of his troubles last year.
He recently talked his friend and frequent playing partner, Web.com pro Ken Looper, out of a Toulon putter.
"I grabbed it from him last week," Arnaud said. "He's not gonna get it back."
He credits that change, along with some lessons he took at the end of 2015 with 10-time PGA Tour champion-turned-teaching-guru Dave Stockton that finally are bearing fruit, with kick-starting his putting.
"I've been close on some Mondays, and I knew if I could just get into an event I would play well," Arnaud said. "I didn't really put any pressure on myself. Just go out and play well, almost like I was a member out here for the full year and treat it like it's another event on the schedule."
He played like he owns the course, making eight birdies Thursday, including a dicey putt from the fringe on his final hole, the par-4 ninth, to pull into a tie for the lead with Adam Long among the early groups.
The putter got hot Monday and stayed that way through his practice round and on Thursday, when he drained several 20-foot-plus putts.
If he keeps it up, he could position himself to become another Cinderella story at Peek'n Peak.
"I'm not gonna say this tournament lends itself to Monday qualifiers, and I know it's the second year back from not having an event here for a few years," Arnaud said. "But you know, I think you get in the mentality on the Mondays of making birdies, and you come out here and just keep that going. Especially on this tour. You've got to make birdies out here."
John Dudley can be reached at 870-1677 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNdudley.
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