MARION — Carson Schaake loves Iowa golf.
The University of Iowa graduate and second-year golf professional is currently on a Midwest swing that started last week in his native Waterloo, ends at the Iowa Open in Riverside next month and now arrives at Hunters Ridge Golf Course.
“I just love this stretch of golf tournaments,” said Schaake, who tees off Thursday at 7:20 a.m. in the first round of the Greater Cedar Rapids Open, which is in its 20th year and concludes on Saturday. “This is a great week for me. Back in my hometown, back in my home state, a bunch of Iowa Hawkeye fans. I just love this place. I played a bunch of those courses a lot of times, so I’m very familiar with them. I’m ready to get going.”
Admission is free to the public all weekend. A $30,000 check awaits the winner.
Schaake, 23, had perhaps his best performance as a young professional in his GCRO debut last year with a third-place finish and a score that was 13 strokes below par, four behind the winner.
“Getting third last year in a tournament like this at a golf course like this, I had never seen it before last year,” Schaake said. “It’s nice to come to Hunters Ridge, the Greater Cedar Rapids Open and play well. I have family that live really close to here. Iowa golf is just really comforting to me and I just enjoy it very much. I am really excited to come here and hopefully play well again.”
At age 4, Schaake and his family relocated to Nebraska, where he would win two boys’ golf high school state championships (2012-13). He elected to return to Iowa for college, picking the Hawkeyes over schools like Iowa State, Minnesota, Oregon and Wisconsin.
“When the time came that I needed to make a decision, for some reason Iowa just felt better,” Schaake said. “It just felt more familiar in my mind. … Soon after I made the decision to go to Iowa, I realized that I had made the greatest choice in my life. I loved it there.”
As an Iowa sophomore, Schaake became the third golfer in program history to win at least a share of a Big Ten championship while posting the second-lowest season scoring average in school history.
Now a pro, Schaake beams when he speaks of his younger brother Alex Schaake, who will be a junior with the Hawkeyes next season. While Carson Schaake had the state titles, Alex Schaake is a two-time winner of the Nebraska Amateur Championship and also a Nebraska match play champion.
“The way he plays and the way he has been playing of late, it just really inspires me,” Carson Schaake said. “It just really gets me going, wanting to play better golf and he’s my little brother, but I look up to him; just the way he plays golf and handles himself out there. He makes me want to become a better golfer every single day.”
After the Iowa Open in Riverside, Carson Schaake will begin the process of attempting to qualify for the Web.com Tour with a Q School qualifying event in Lincoln, Neb.
“That is the goal right now,” Schaake said. “That’s what I’m focused on. I’m just trying to get my game in peak shape before Q-school comes along where I am confident, I’m ready to go out there and shoot a lot under par and I’m ready to do that. I’m right there.”
The GCRO will also feature a pair of previous winners in Sean McCarty of Solon (2009) and Paul Apyan of Chattanooga, Tenn. (2015). McCarty — the club professional at Brown Deer in Coralville — is enjoying an excellent summer after making the cut at the PGA John Deere Classic earlier this month in the Quad Cities.
TrueNorth Greater Cedar Rapids Open
When: Thursday through Saturday.
Where: Hunters Ridge Golf Course, Marion
Field: 150-plus players, professional and amateur
Purse: $30,000 first prize for professionals.
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