116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The 23rd addition of the Greater Cedar Rapids Open arrives on Thursday at Hunters Ridge Golf Course with an increasing international flair.
While golfers from across the country traditionally make their way to the Corridor to compete, this year’s field of 113 golfers features competitors from India, Thailand and New Zealand.
What: 23rd Greater Cedar Rapids Open
Where: Hunters Ridge Golf Course, Marion
When: Today through Friday
Prize money: $30,000 to winner
Notes: A 54-hole tournament with 113 professional golfers ... two past champions are in the field, including defending champion Seth Fair of Pitsboro, Ind. Fair also won in 2016 ... Derek Lamely of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., won titles in 2005 and 2008 ... This year’s tournament will have an international flair with three players from India and one from Thailand and New Zealand.
Tournament organizers have done their part in making sure this is an event that appeals to a wide array of professional players.
“They hear about us because we host them in our homes,” tournament co-founder and co-director Jim McPartland said. “We provide a big dinner for them. I think another thing that’s unique is we pay back 100 percent of their entry fees in the purse. A lot of tournaments have to keep back something. We raise money to do that through our pro-ams.”
In order to compete with events like the Waterloo Open, tournament organizers made a concerted effort to bump the payout to entice top competitors. That culminated in a 2015 partnership with TrueNorth and UFG Insurance that allowed the Greater Cedar Rapids Open to pay $30,000 to the winner.
“That’s been huge,” McPartland said. “We’ve had to step our game up a little bit and thanks to TrueNorth and UFG Insurance, we’ve been able to do that.”
Taking part in this year’s event, Gurbazz Mann is a 39-year-old who hails from Chandigahr, India. He is a former pro who played in the Asian and European Tours before retiring in 2009 due to a hip injury. He now teaches the game in Pickering, Ohio, and will be participating with two of the players he mentors. Jayant Kumar and Tejas Sinha are both pros in India.
Denezel Ieremia, a 26-year-old former Iowa State golfer by way of Wellington, New Zealand, also will be looking to make his mark. Ieremia has performed well on the pro circuit, making the cut in his two Korn Ferry Tour events in 2019. His 2019 season also consisted of four Top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour of Australia along with a pair of Top 10 finishes on the Japan Golf Tour.
Thailand’s KK Limbhasut, who made the cut in 19 of his 37 appearances on the Korn Ferry Tour during 2020-21, also will be participating.
Headlining the stateside competition is defending champion and two-time GCRO winner Seth Fair. The Pittsboro, Ind., native also won the 2016 edition. He entered the final round five shots back last year, storming back to edge Sam Cyr, who also returns. Fair will be attempting to become the GCRO’s first three-time winner.
With players coming from far and wide, one of the more intriguing stores heading into the weekend is a local one. Tate Brunk, a rising senior from Iowa City Liberty High School, received an invitation to participate in the GCRO after winning the Greater Cedar Rapids Junior Tournament earlier this month.
Brunk will join the field attempting to make the cut among the professionals.
“We’ve not invited the juniors to come play before,” McPartland said. “This is a big deal for them.”
Tee times begin at 7:35 on Thursday morning as the field will begin to navigate the challenges Hunters Ridge presents.
“The winds will throw havoc at them,” McPartland said. “That’s the challenge out here. If you miss-hit it a little bit, the wind gets it and you could end up in places you don’t want to be. There’s a good deal of water out here, long grasses, and a good number of sand traps that are not easy to get out of.”
Round 2 is Friday and somewhere around the Top 40, plus ties, will make the cut for Saturday’s final round.