Curry, who was playing on a sponsor’s exemption, drew a gallery of 300-plus fans on Thursday to the Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic, in which Jerry Rice, the Hall of Fame wide receiver, had previously played.
One of three amateurs in the field, Curry, 29, high-fived fans between holes on the course, which has panoramic views overlooking San Francisco Bay, and chatted with the other players in his threesome, Sam Ryder and the defending champion Stephan Jaeger. Both will be on the PGA Tour next season.
Curry, who munched on a breakfast sandwich at the green of his first hole, missed badly on his opening tee shot. The drive landed off a hill and bounced perfectly into the cup holder of a golf cart — not quite as spot on as his signature 3-pointers from way, way back.
“That’s probably a first on the tour: There was a golf cart just left of my target on Hole No. 1, and it went right in the cup holder,” Curry said. “Not an ideal way to start, with calling a rules official over after your first tee shot. I kind of settled in after that.”
On the 15th fairway, Curry leaned on West, a member of Golden State’s front office and the son of the N.B.A. Hall of Famer Jerry West. Jonnie West is also a member of the Stonebrae club.
Then Curry finished the par-5 15th by sinking a 5-foot downhill birdie putt. He made par on No. 16, then survived a tee shot to the bunker and a near stumble climbing out of the sand on the par-4 18th and made about an 8-footer to save par.
That prompted Curry to tap his club against one of his shoes, and to hold up the ball with a big grin on his face.
“It was awesome,” West said. “He handled the nerves of this being his first time in this type of atmosphere pretty well.”
Credit Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Before the tournament, Steve Wheatcroft, a PGA Tour pro, wrote on Twitter that there was “no way in hell” that Curry would shoot below 76. After the first round, Curry responded to Wheatcroft’s post, “Hell hath frozen over.” Wheatcroft admitted he had underestimated Curry, writing: “VERY impressive out there. Beat some good players.”
Some of the more prominent tour players also complimented Curry after the first round. “To play that well with the kind of pressure he must have been under is very impressive,” Rickie Fowler told Golf Digest. “It’s cool what he did. I’ve never been thrown in a situation where I’ve had to perform at the highest level — or one of the highest levels — competing in another sport.
“There may be a couple of athletes on the PGA Tour, maybe Dustin Johnson or Gary Woodland, who could look athletic on a basketball court, but they aren’t going to play to the level that he did as a golfer.”
Curry began his round on the back nine, and he said that when his name was announced on the tee, “I could barely feel my hands; I had to try to take a deep breath.”
He made the turn in two over.
Wherever he went on Thursday, there were cameras clicking, cheers and whistles moments after he struck the ball and hundreds of supporters wearing Warriors gear, mostly shirts bearing his No. 30.
Curry had plenty of help along the 7,024-yard, par-70 course. It was nearly impossible for him to lose a ball. Wherever his shots landed, a big crowd quickly gathered to get a close glimpse of one of basketball’s best. Those with homes along the course gathered in groups on decks to catch a hole.
On Thursday, Jaeger made a key assist down the stretch. Waiting at the tee box on their final hole, he took a basketball belonging to Erik Oswald, a 14-year-old from Southern California, gave it to Curry to autograph and then returned it to the giddy teenager, who had followed Curry all day.
“Unbelievable gallery out here,” Curry said.