"If you play aggressively, you can make a lot of birdies [at Riverside]," said Brown, who made eight. "…If you can hit your driver a long ways, you can take advantage of the par-5s, and on the back side, that short par-4."
Former BYU stars Clay Ogden, Steve Schneiter and Dean Wilson, a former PGA Tour regular, are part of a 10-player pack at 68. Brown knows Riverside well, having played here four straight years as a CSU Ram in the Cougar Classic tournament hosted by BYU. He won the classic in 2012, his senior year. Thursday, he went fly-fishing on the Provo, but didn't fare well.
He was really good on the par-3s, making three birdies and a par on those holes. He said his first tee shot on the par-3 ninth hole struck a power line, so he hit another shot (per local rules) and it almost went in the hole for an ace.
"The greens were absolutely pure today," he said. "I was nervous after all the pro-ams, and when the rain happened [Thursday], I was like, 'Oh no' because the course was getting beat up. But they did a good job [getting it ready]."
So how did he get that first name?
Brown's mother was cited for speeding in a small town in Illinois where she grew up, and police officers thought there was a warrant out for her arrest and hauled her into the station. Turns out, they had the wrong Lori Ann Barlow.
"So my parents wanted us to have unique first names and not have to deal with that," Brown said.
His only brother, Zenon Brown, who is three years older, is also playing in the Utah Open and fired a 71 on Friday. His only sister's name?
That would be Zarena.
Utah Open leaderboard
64 • Zahkai Brown, Arvada, Colo.
65 • Nathan Lashley, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Chase Barnes, Houston, Texas
66 • Daniel Engle, Salt Lake City
67 • Ryan Hogue, Mesa, Ariz.; Kurt Watkins, Chandler, Ariz.; Jesse Mueller, Mesa, Ariz.
68 • Travis Hofland, Twin Falls, Idaho; Nick Travers, Boise, Idaho; Brian Vranesh, Phoenix, Ariz.; James Drew, Las Vegas, Nev.; Steve Schneiter, Sandy; Scott Smith, Fallon, Nev.; Clay Ogden, Farmington; Dean Wilson, San Diego, Calif.; Steve Friesen, Scottsdale, Ariz.; a-Jordan Rodgers, Salt Lake City.
69 • Nicholas Becker, Provo; a-Jason Hargett, Springville; Nick Killpack, St. George; Chris Moody, Provo; a-Justin Mortensen, Alamosa, Colo.; Devin Schreiner, Durango, Colo., Tommy Sharp, Salt Lake City.