MARION — A good start was dependent on who could decipher the draft.
The first round of the 20th annual Greater Cedar Rapids Open golf tournament at Hunters Ridge Golf Course was beset with winds in excess of 20 miles per hour, which made Thursday difficult for a host of golfers chasing an early lead.
“It was really tough,” said Brian Bullington, who shot a 5-under par 67 and possesses a two-stroke lead with two rounds to go. “It was windy and the pins were tough. My mental game was good. I stayed patient. I shot 30 on my back (nine holes) and any time you’re shooting well like that, you’re going to be putting well. … Everything was pretty solid today. No complaints. Patience was the key, for sure.”
Bullington, 24, is a native of Frankfort, Ill., and played collegiately at the University of Iowa from 2011-15. After failing to make the cut in seven PGA Tour Latinoamerica events at the beginning of the year, changes to his equipment, added muscle and an improved mental mindset have his game on an uptick. Just over two weeks ago, Bullington was one of four golfers — along with Solon native Sean McCarty and Vince India, both fellow Iowa alums — awarded entry into the PGA Tour John Deere Classic following a Monday qualifier stroke play golf tournament.
“It took a little while for the changes to set in,” Bullington said. “I had to stay patient, keep believing and once I Monday-ed into the John Deere, it was kind of that first little push in the right direction and everything has been moving in the right direction since.”
Bullington carded a 1-over par 37 after the first nine holes, then stayed aggressive and got creative in managing the wind with a flurry of low drives. Bullington posted an eagle and four birdies over the final nine holes.
“A lot of the pins, it was just tough with the crosswinds just where they had them set up,” said Bullington, who will compete at a Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in Arizona this fall. “It was hard to get close to a lot of them. There are a few holes, especially on the back nine, where you kind of have a lot of tight tee shots where you have to place the ball in the correct spot. It was just hard to control your ball.”
A cluster of seven golfers trail Bullington by two strokes and are tied for second, led by former Iowa men’s golf assistant coach Jeff Schmid, another Hawkeye alum.
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McCarty — the head professional at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville — continued his excellent summer with a 2-under par 70, which placed him in a tie for ninth place with 13 other golfers.
McCarty, 45, made the cut at the John Deere Classic and by virtue of a runner-up finish last month in California at the PGA Professional Championship, is qualified for entry into the prestigious PGA Championship next month in St. Louis.
Former Iowa golfer Carson Schaake and ex-UNI golfer Ryan Argotsinger are among a group of nine golfers that are tied for 22nd, four strokes behind Bullington.
The second round begins Friday at 7 a.m.
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