116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — Most golfers at the 23rd edition of the Greater Cedar Rapids Open started Thursday’s first round with hopes of finding their way into the Saturday purse to fund their golf ambitions.
“When it comes down to it, no matter what anyone says, they’re out here to make money,” former University of Iowa golfer Alex Schaake said. “Going to Korn Ferry Q-School, hopefully get on to the Korn Ferry next year and work my way up through the rankings there to eventually get PGA Tour status is kind of my end goal.”
The GCRO is sandwiched between the Waterloo Open and the Iowa Open in Riverside. Eastern Iowa is home to open tournaments with sizable payouts on three consecutive weekends. The GCRO winner will pocket $30,000.
For players like Schaake, an Omaha native and two-time Big Ten player of the year who finished his Hawkeye career in 2021, it’s three opportunities to pad their resumes — and their wallets — while doing something they love.
“Even if there wasn’t any money at all and there are all these guys coming out here, I’d love to come play,” Schaake said. “I just love the game.”
A similar profile is shared by many of the golfers in the field. Three-time GCRO participant Andrew Wilkinson resides in Tampa, Fla., but hails from Rockford, Ill.
“I grew up around the area,” Wilkinson, said. “I play here and then I go spend some time with the family for three or four days and then I go play the Iowa Open. A couple of tournaments and I get out of Florida for the summertime.”
Wilkinson will head to Sweden in September to participate in the European Q-School.
At the front of the mind in the golf world is the addition of LIV Golf. Until the dust settles, it is difficult to say what kind of opportunities that may or may not open for the type of players who compete in the GCRO.
“I think the coming months will tell the story,” Wilkinson said. “It’s early on and nobody knows what’s going on right now. I haven’t got the LIV email yet, though.”
Whether or not more opportunities arise in the large tours like the Korn Ferry, LIV, and its impact on the sport, looms large.
“It’s hard to say no to the LIV Tour when they come at you for a few million dollars,” Schaake said. “They can kind of buy you out. No matter what you say and no matter how you feel, they have an amount of money to make you rethink things.
“If they came to me right now, it would be kind of hard to say no.”
In the meantime, as Round 1 began, golfers looking to make a run at the $30,000 purse needed to make hay on the front 9 before the winds arrived for the back half.
“The wind, for sure,” said Wilkinson, who finished the day at 1-over-par. “The wind at the pro-am yesterday was stout. I feel like around 10 or 11 (a.m.) it starts picking up. They got the greens rolling this year. Awesome. Stay below the hole and keep the ball in play and you can get after it.”
Danny Daniels, Joel Thelen and Jhared Hack are tied for the lead at 6-under par (66) after the first round.
Tee times begin at 7:30 a.m. Friday for Round 2 of the 3-round event.