It’s the Summer of Sean. And Monday was the Day of the Hawkeye.
The John Deere Classic’s Monday qualifier was a University of Iowa festival. Three of the four players who advanced to this week’s PGA Tour event at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill., were former Hawkeye golfers.
Brian Bullington, a 2015 Iowa graduate, shot a 9-under 63 to top all of the 86 players competing for those four spots at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Ill. Tying for second at 65 were former Hawkeyes Sean McCarty (1995 grad) and Vince India (2011).
“Isn’t that crazy?” Bullington said afterward. “The three of us were on the putting green afterward talking about it. It’s awesome.”
At least a dozen of the players in the qualifier were former PGA Tour members. But none could match the scores of the ex-Hawkeyes, or fourth-place Manav Shah, a UCLA alum.
“It’s bizarre,” 45-year-old McCarty said, adding “I’m twice their age.” Actually, India is 29 and Bullington is 24.
What’s bizarre in a good way is how McCarty, the head pro at Coralville’s Brown Deer Golf Club, has suddenly altered his schedule with big-time events. He finished second at last month’s PGA Professional Championship in Seaside, Calif., to earn a spot in next month’s PGA Championship in St. Louis. Now he’ll play in his first Deere since 2013.
“I played pretty good today,” he said, “but I didn’t putt very well. I’ve been driving it good and my wedge game is pretty good.”
Bullington had an eagle, eight birdies and a bogey.
“It was a good day,” he understated. “I rolled in a few 15- and 20-footers.
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“I Monday-ed into a Web.com Tour event once. They take six players. Here it’s four, and you know you have to shoot an out-of-the-ordinary round.”
Bullington has played some PGA Tour Latinoamerica events this year. That tour is currently on break.
“It’s a nice feeling to see some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I’m going to compete this week and see how my game holds up. Good golf is good golf anywhere it travels.”
Bullington got a sponsor’s exemption in the 2016 Deere, where he failed to make the 36-hole cut.
India, from Deerfield, Ill., has played in six Web.com Tour events this year, making the cut in just one. He was 110th on that tour’s money list in 2017. He was on his game Monday, with eight birdies to one bogey.
He had endured back pain in 2016 and 2017, using stem-cell therapy to help with that.
India Monday-qualified into March’s PGA Tour event in the Dominican Republic and went on to tie for 50th-place in his Tour debut.
On Thursday, the three former Hawkeyes will join 153 other formidable players at Deere Run. A spot in next week’s Open Championship in Scotland awaits the highest-finisher in the JDC’s top five who hasn’t already secured a spot in that major.
“That’s what I’ve heard,” McCarty said. “I think I’ll take it one step at a time.”
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