Peterson, Ellis share Louisiana Open lead

BROUSSARD — One is the former LSU golfer and NCAA national champion who finished top-five at last year’s U.S. Open at age 23, who’s looking to establish himself on pro golf’s top circuits.

The other has been around the block many times on both the PGA Tour and Tour and is looking to make his way back to golf’s biggest stage.

With almost 20 years between them, John Peterson and Danny Ellis share the first-round lead at the $550,000 Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Both fired six-under-par 65s Thursday over the 7,067-yard, par-71 Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club layout and lead a tightly-bunched pack in the Tour’s opening U.S. event.

Peterson, who won the 2011 NCAA title while at LSU and turned pro following that collegiate season, heated up over his final eight holes and carded a five-under 31 on Le Triomphe’s front side after starting at the 10th hole.

“I’ve been playing good,” he said. “I played well in Santiago (the Chile Classic, the Tour’s most recent stop) and didn’t score. I didn’t make anything there. Today, it was a little more clean.”

The 42-year-old Ellis matched Peterson’s seven birdies and one bogey, making the first step toward matching or bettering his 2005 Louisiana Open outing when he tied for third. Ellis, with 113 PGA Tour outings and 81 Tour events on his résumé, has been bouncing around mini-tour circuits since his last full season in 2007.

“I’m finally healthy,” said Ellis, whose medical chart includes three back surgeries, a bad elbow and a surgically-reconstructed left toe that still had him limping noticeably on Thursday. “I hit it good all day. Out here, you just try to hit fairways because they’re so fast, hit greens and make putts.”

The two stand one stroke up on the threesome of third-year Tour pro Ben Martin, rookie Ryan Spears and Tour veteran and four-time Tour champion Nick Flanagan at five-under 66. Behind them, a huge logjam of 15 players stands at four-under 67, meaning that 20 players are within two strokes of the lead entering Friday’s second round.

“It’s too early to be looking at a leaderboard,” said Ellis, an Orlando native and Heathrow, Fla., resident who spent all or part of six seasons on the PGA Tour.