Walsh, Burgesss tied for lead at Trans-Miss
ANDOVER, Kan. — Ryan Burgess from Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., shot a 3-under-par 67 on Tuesday to grab a share of the lead after one round at the 112th playing of the Trans-Mississippi Championship.
He didn’t use the words “in the zone” to characterize his impressive play at the challenging, Tom Fazio-designed Flint Hills National Golf Club. What he did say, however, sounded suspiciously close to that rarefied state of mind all athletes hope to conjure on the biggest stages.
“I stayed very patient today,” Burgess said with a blank stare. “The next thing I knew the round was over. Honestly, it was a blur.”
Whether he remembers them or not, Burgess, a senior at SMU, made five birdies on the day. The blitz included one on the 520-yard, par-5 finishing hole, a perilous ordeal that presents a water hazard that traces the entire left side of the fairway and must be crossed to reach the green.
Burgess made it look easy.
“I didn’t do a lot of thinking out there,” he said. “I did everything pretty well. I had a couple poor putts, a couple poor approach shots and a couple poor tee shots. For the most part, I got away with all of them.”
Burgess is tied at 3-under with Sean Walsh from Keller, Texas. A senior at Gonzaga, Walsh came into the Trans-Miss Championship red hot. He won the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst Resort in N.C. on July 3. Earlier this year Walsh won the Saguaro Amateur in January at Southern Dunes GC outside of Phoenix, and in May he won his U.S. Open Local Qualifier in Walla Walla, Wash.
Burgess and Walsh were part of a morning wave of 72 players who sloshed their way across Flint Hills National amid an enduring rain shower. Despite receiving almost 3 inches of rain in the 24 hours leading up to the championship, the first round began on time at 7:30 a.m. After several dry hours overnight, Tuesday morning brought steady showers down on picturesque Flint Hills National.
By midday, however, the rain relented and temperatures climbed to a more comfortable level in the high 60s.
Tied for third place at 2-under 68 are Sam Russell, an Englishman who recently graduated from Oklahoma City University, and Daniel Hudson, a sophomore at Kansas University from LaGrange, Ill.
Hudson posted the low score from the afternoon wave, which saw drier, but much windier, conditions.
Six players are tied for fifth place. A total of 10 finished the first round under par on a soggy day when Flint Hills National played to a stroke average of nearly four shots over par. The 488-yard, par-4 opening stanza played the toughest at an average of 4.71. The 6,912-yard, par-70 course stood strong overall with a 73.88 stroke average.
Grant Bennett turned in the best number from the contingent of five players from nearby Wichita State University. Bennett, a junior who in June finished third in the Texas Amateur, shot an even-par 70 on Tuesday. He’s tied with 16 competitors for 11th place.
Defending champion Will Zalatoris shot a 5-over 75 and shares a piece of 84th place with 18 others. The Trans-Miss Championship is the first competition for Zalatoris since May when he underwent emergency appendix surgery.
The Plano resident and sophomore at Wake Forest said he partially ruptured his appendix on the way to a practice round for the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson Championship, to which he received a sponsor’s exemption after winning the Texas Amateur, U.S. Junior Amateur and Trans-Miss Amateur in the summer of 2014.
“I feel great,” Zalatoris said after he finished his round with a tap-in eagle on No. 18. “I got off to a rough start today. I’ll play better tomorrow; I have to.”
Top amateurs from 28 U.S. states and seven other countries comprise the 144-player field. The Trans-Miss Championship format is 72 holes of individual stroke play with a 36-hole cut (top 54 scores and ties) at the conclusion of the second round, which is scheduled for Wednesday. The remaining competitors play 36 holes over two rounds on Thursday’s final day.
Designed in 1995, the awe-inspiring Flint Hills National opened two years later. At the time, Fazio called it one of the best courses he’d ever designed. The USGA took notice, as it hosted the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur and 2007 U.S. Senior Amateur. The 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur is scheduled for Flint Hills National as well.
Carved from rich Kansas farmland, the course stretches across 640 acres of tree-lined terrain dissected by creeks and natural water hazards, all of which add to its confounding nature. Ranked among Golf Digest’s Top 100 Courses, Flint Hills National previously played host to Trans-Miss Championships in 2003 and 2009.
The second round begins Wednesday at 7:30 a.m.