For Rick Cochran III, winning the Irvin Cobb Golf Championships at the Paxton Park Golf Course would be like "Christmas in July."
"Ever since I put on pants, I've been trying to win this tournament," said Cochran, who surged to the top of the leaderboard and leads the first round of the professional division thanks to his 7-under-par 64 Saturday. "I'm gracious to (PPGC golf pro and Director of Golf Operations) Danny (Mullen) for letting me play and practice out here and letting me make this my home course. Every year I seem to have some kind of setback at the Cobb. So this would mean more to me than any win I've had. So hopefully, I can put that aside and play golf (today) and hopefully be talking (today) as the winner of the tournament."
Cochran, a 2005 Heath High School and 2009 Middle Tennessee State alum who just won the 95th Annual Kentucky Open on Friday, leads former Murray State Racer Patrick Newcomb, who finished with a 65, and Hunter Ford, who ended the first round with a 67 on the 6,619-yard, par-71 course.
Cochran admits he's been playing good golf lately.
"Everything has been clicking," said Cochran, who shot 3-under 32 on the front nine and a 4-under 32 on the back, which included him making nine birdies. "I've been working with Nate Wolfe, my instructor at the Golf Complex (in Paducah). We started working early this year and it's really helped me out. I've putted well in Latin America. I took some time off before the Kentucky Open and got with Nate before I got up there. And Nate knows what he's doing, because he's got me swinging the golf club really well."
Newcomb was pleased with his round Saturday that saw him shoot a 1-under 34 on the front nine and a 5-under 31 on the back, including birdies on Nos. 15, 17 and 18.
"I struck it really well from top to bottom," said Newcomb, who along with Cochran and Ford will tee off in the final group at 1:36 p.m. "I think I missed two greens today, and to miss two greens and still have that many opportunities makes it hard to shoot bad. I didn't bogey and that made it easy. It's hard to shoot over par when you don't bogey. I hit the two par 5s in two coming home here and tapped in for birdies so stuff like that made the round pretty simple."
And while Cochran is happy to be the professional leader, the biggest smile of the day went to UT Martin senior and Nashville Ravenwood High alumnus Brendon Caballero, who shot the low score of the day (71) and leads the amateur division.
Caballero leads Tyler Gray, Chris Griffin and Andrew Pleasant, who all shot 68.
"Everyone has to play the same golf course, but conditions were really good for scoring (Saturday)," said Caballero, who birdied 11 of the 18 holes and will tee off in the third to last group at 1:18 p.m with Gray and Griffin. "Hitting a lot of greens helps and so does making the putts."
Ben Rush and Sean Warren are the leaders in the junior division after both shot 76. Warren will tee off at 9:15 this morning with Alexander Tison and Eric Williamson, both amateurs. Rush will go with amateurs Myles Morrissey and Brock Simmons at 9:24 a.m.
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.