Sports

String of birdies propels Brant Peaper into the lead at the Greater Cedar Rapids Open

Indiana alum has 2-stroke lead with 1 round to go with ex-Hawkeyes lurking

Brant Peaper takes a shot on hole nine during the second round of play at the North Greater Cedar Rapids Open at Hunter’s Ridge Golf Course in Marion on Friday, July 22, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Brant Peaper takes a shot on hole nine during the second round of play at the North Greater Cedar Rapids Open at Hunter’s Ridge Golf Course in Marion on Friday, July 22, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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MARION — Professional golfer Brant Peaper has strung enough birdies together at Hunters Ridge Golf Course that it has nearly become second nature.

Before the 20th annual Greater Cedar Rapids Open began Thursday, Peaper participated in one of the best-shot Pro/Am golf tournaments that combined golf pros with local business executives that helped kick off the week at Hunters Ridge.

On that day, Peaper posted five birdies in a row. Friday in the second round of the GCRO, the 28-year-old West Palm Beach, Fla., native did it again.

“It didn’t really feel like I was doing it anymore,” Peaper said with a laugh after posting a second-round score of 64 that vaulted him into first place with a two-stroke lead at 10-under par. “I didn’t really realize it. I made five birdies in a row and so the kids in my group were like, ‘How does it feel to make a par?’ I was like, ‘Oh my. … I guess I did just make five birdies.’ When you play at this level in these tournaments, from last week playing in the Waterloo (Open), you just have to put your foot down on the gas and keep going because you never know when it could go the other way.”

The final round begins Saturday at 7 a.m. and a check for $30,000 will be presented to the victor.

Peaper started his round at hole No. 10. After a bogey on the par-4 No. 15, Peaper birdied the next five holes, then finished with three more birdies and four pars over the final seven.

“I just decided to play pretty conservative because a lot could go wrong, I feel like, at any moment out there,” said Peaper, who played college golf in the Big Ten at Indiana. “Just hit the fairway so I could give myself nice full shots into the greens instead of leaving myself with half-wedges, which is pretty tough to do in the wind, in my opinion, or out of the rough.”

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Like many pros in the field, Peaper will participate in a Web.com Tour qualifying school schedule this fall in hopes of earning a spot on that tour.

Former University of Virginia golfer Kyle Kochevar is alone in second place at 8-under par, while Casey Fernandez of McAlester, Okla., led the field for much of the day at 7-under par and is now tied for third with Eastern Illinois alum Kevin Flack.

“I really hit the ball great,” Fernandez said. “I think I missed two greens today.”

A second-round score of 66 vaulted University of Iowa graduate Nate Yankovich into a tie for sixth place with three other golfers at 6-under par, highlighted by a 50-foot putt at No. 17.

“Today was solid,” said Yankovich, 24. “I didn’t do anything crazy. I just played a solid round of golf. … I did everything that I should have, didn’t put myself in really any harms way at all. Made a couple more putts.”

Two more ex-Hawkeyes — first-round leader Brian Bullington and Solon native Sean McCarty — are in a group of seven golfers that are tied for 10th place at 5-under par.

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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