Two previous winners highlight Greater Cedar Rapids Open

The last two winners of the GCRO are back for the 2016 edition

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MARION — The 2016 edition of the TrueNorth Greater Cedar Rapids Open features familiar talent.

The last two winners of the tournament — Mark Blakefield, of Maysville, Kent., in 2014 and Paul Apyan, of Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2015 — are back to compete for a second title and a record $25,000 payout.

Apyan finished fourth at the Waterloo Open last weekend and has played seven events on the PGA Tour Latin America this season.

While both men will compete for a second title, their toughest competition will be each other. Blakefield led all three rounds of the 2014 tournament. Apyan led all three rounds of the 2015 tournament. If recent history holds true, the leader after the first day will take home the check on Saturday.

“Hopefully one of us will take off like we have the last couple of years,” Blakefield said. “It’ll be fun either way.”

Blakefield said everything from tee times to the way the course and greens play could have an impact on the tournament.

“I expect them to play well,” Nate Severin, the golf professional at Hunters Ridge, said. “Course knowledge is going to be very beneficial to them. They understand how the wind blows out here. They’re comfortable standing on the tee out here. They know where they can miss it and where they absolutely cannot hit it.”

The knowledge of the course will come in handy, and Severin expects the weather to play a role as well. Eastern Iowa is under an excessive heat warning until 7 p.m. Saturday. The heat warning covers the duration of the tournament.

Blakefield tees off at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Apyan at 1:20 p.m.

Sean McCarty, another previous champion, was entered in the tournament but withdrew with an injury. McCarty, the golf professional at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, will compete in the Iowa PGA Professional Championship next week, and is taking a few days off to rest, tournament publicity co-chair Don Wojciechowski said.

The tournament has a history of producing PGA Tour players. Zach Johnson won the Greater Cedar Rapids Open in 2001 and carries a PGA Tour resume that hardly needs rehashing. Derek Lamley, the 2005 and 2008 winner, has also played on the PGA tour.

With a record purse, the field brought in more players, but the competition for the title, at least on paper, is between two players.

“They have the potential to go extremely low, and they can basically outplay the entire field by a round or two,” Severin said. “Not saying it’s going to happen, but they have the potential.”

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