ZACHARY - Blaine Patin, general manager at The Oaks of Sherwood Golf Course, credits the advanced skill level of their membership for helping improve his golf game. Saturday morning that skill was on display as Patin led a handful of his club members to the top of the leader board on the first day of the BREC Players Championship.

Patin carded five birdies to offset a single bogey on his way to a 68 at the 6,950-yard, par-72 Beaver Creek Golf Course. Not to be outdone, close on Patin’s heels were fellow Oaks of Sherwood members Wendell Akins at 70, Donny Schmitt (71) and Brett Baker (72).

Also at 72 was Hunter Smith; followed by Scott Haynie and Henry Pointer at 73; and Russ Gaudin, Gayle Sanchez and Mike Drury Jr. at 74.

Patin has been a regular contender for BREC golfer of the year honors during its five-year existence, and came into the tournament sixth in the 2011 standings.

“I attribute a lot of that to the guys that I play with,” Patin said. “In the golfer of the year standings, six of the top 10 are from the club, and that’s our regular guys.

“In these tournaments, you never know because any of the guys we normally play with can win any week. Any time you get to play with golfers better than you, it sharpens your game.”

Patin was sharp from the outset on Saturday with consecutive birdies to start his round. He knocked a wedge to eight feet on the first hole, and sank the putt. He reached the par-5 second in two, and two-putted for birdie.

Putting was a constant for Patin all day.

“I only missed two greens, but the biggest thing was the pace on my putting,” Patin said. “I was never in danger of three-putting because I had the pace down.”

Patin birdied No. 7 and made the turn at 3 under. A wedge to five feet led to another birdie at 10, and he birdied the par-5 11th after hitting just short of the green in two.

Patin’s only bogey came at 14 after he pulled his tee shot into the rough. He eventually pitched up to the green, but missed a 10-footer for par.

Playing in the same group as Patin, Schmitt was even par through 10 holes. He then reached both par 5s, holes 11 and 13, and scored easy two-putt birdies. But both birdies were followed by a bogeys.

Schmitt three-putted 12, and hit a poor chip after missing the 14th green from the left rough. Schmitt sank a 15-foot birdie putt at 16, and parred in for a round of 71.

“Its so critical to be in the fairways here,” said Schmitt, whose victory at the 2010 BREC Players Championship helped him win golfer of the year honors.

“We’re not used to having to think so much when you’re not in the fairway. You don’t know if you’ll catch a flyer and hit it 30 yards too long.”

Also playing in Patin’s group, former LSU golfer Russ Gaudin shot 74. Gaudin made the turn at 2 over and sank a 15-foot birdie at 11.

Scrambling pars at 14, 15 and 17 highlighted the rest of Gaudin’s back nine. At 18, he missed the green left, leading to a closing bogey.

“I was just trying to make some pars,” Gaudin said. “A couple of these holes are pretty long for me, so I have to have my short game working. Overall, 74 is a decent round for me.”

Adam Zayor, second in the golfer of the year standings, shot 83. Zayor made the turn at 6 over, and ran into more trouble on the back nine.

A lost ball at 10 and an out-of-bounds tee shot at 12 led to a pair of double bogeys. Zayor made a short birdie putt at the par-3 15th, but bogeyed 16 after hitting into a bunker off the tee.