CHICAGO, Ill. (July 29, 2014) — Australia’s Geoff Drakeford birdied his first two holes then stepped on the gas en route to a first-round 6-under par 65 and the early lead Tuesday at the 112th Western Amateur at The Beverly Country Club on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
“I missed three eight-footers on the front nine or it could’ve been scary,” said Drakeford, who won last week’s Porter Cup in Niagara Falls, NY.
Drakeford, 22, birdied two more holes on the front nine to make the turn in 32, then birdied 11, 13 and 14 on the back before making bogey on No. 15 and parring in.
“The greens here are ridiculously quick,” Drakeford said. “They’re really good, but you can’t be above the hole.” He proved it when his short birdie putt from the above the hole on the steep back-to-front-tilted No. 18 green slid five feet past, leaving him a knee-knocker for par, which he made.
Purdue’s Adam Schenk of Vincennes, Indiana, shot 5-under to claim solo second place in the morning wave. He birdied Nos. 1, 3 and 5, bogeyed 6 and reeled off three straight birdies on 13,14 and 15 to finish 34-32—66.
“I got off to a good start and… finished up 2-under on the front nine, then just got hot on the back nine, made three [birdies] in a row and parred in,” said Schnenk, 22, who has exhausted his eligibility with the Boilermakers.
“The greens are in good shape,” Schenk said. “They’re firm, rolling fast so you have to be careful with your speed…”
Beau Hossler, 19, who made it to the Western Amateur’s Sweet 16 match play round last year, made six birdies on his last eight holes to shoot 4-under 67 on bi-polar nines of 37-30. Hossler’s back nine barrage was the more impressive because his consecutive birdies on the last three holes included a 2 on the difficult 195-yard par 3 17th. “I feel like I stole a stroke and a half there,” he said.
“It was a bad start for me but fortunately I got on a run at the end,” said Hossler, a sophomore at Texas, who finished second last week at the Porter Cup. “The course is hard. Putting is definitely difficult if you’re above the hole, and fortunately I gave myself some good looks where I could be aggressive. That was really the difference… It was a little bit of stress-free golf on the last eight holes, which was really nice.”
Hossler said he missed a few short putts on the front nine, but adjusted his stroke and hit his approach shots under the hole, leaving himself with uphill putts.
Tied for third with Hossler is 23-year-old New Zealander Josh Munn, who birdied five holes, including three of the course’s four par 5s, and parred the par 5, 18th. His only bogey came on the difficult par 3 17th, where he three-putted.
“The course is in fantastic condition,” Munn said. “I haven’t played greens like this before. I really enjoy fast greens, and they’re really true. The whole course is just immaculate. It’s cool to be here.”
This is Munn’s final event in a summer tour that took him to Great Britain and the United States with Golf New Zealand. He played in the Western Amateur last year, too, at The Alotian Club in Little Rock.
Having grown up on the windy north island of New Zealand, Munn said he would be happy if Chicago lived up to its Windy City moniker this week.
“If there’s a bit of wind this week, I’m used to it,” said Munn, who is playing his last U.S. event this week before returning to New Zealand. “The stronger the wind the better.”
Charlie Danielson, a member of the Illinois golf team, shot 3-under in the morning and is tied for fifth along with Alabama’s Tom Lovelady.
Defending champion Jordan Niebrugge, with father Rod Niebrugge on his bag, opened with a 2-under 69 and is in a five-way tie for seventh.
Two University of Iowa golfers, Raymond Knoll and Brian Bullington – who hail from the Chicago suburbs of Naperville and Frankfort, respectively – shot 1-under 70 along with Cheng-Tsung Pan, U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Mike McCoy and Oklahoma State’s Wyndham Clark.
-Story courtesy of Western Golf Association