Mark Mulder among leaders at Arizona Am

By Bill Huffman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (August 1, 2011) -- If former major league pitcher Mark Mulder really took his golf seriously, who knows how well he’d play? But even if it’s “just for fun,’’ as Mulder likes to say, the ESPN commentator is pretty adept at golfing his ball.

Mulder had it going Monday during the opening round of qualifying for the 87th Arizona Amateur Championship. His two-under-par 68 at the Country Club at DC Ranch placed him among the leaders and gave him a great opportunity to reach the match play round of 64 for a second straight year in this major championship sponsored by the Arizona Golf Association.

“To tell the truth, I’m not exactly sure how I shot 68,’’ quipped the 33-year-old Scottsdale resident, who was an All-Star hurler for the Oakland A’s in 2003 and 2004 and also pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I mean, the first hole (No. 10), I roll in a 60-foot putt for birdie and I’m thinking: ‘Just don’t three- or four-putt.’ Then the second hole, I make another birdie to go with an eagle on my seventh or eighth hole (No. 17), where I ‘thin’ a 4-iron to three or four feet of the cup and make the putt. So things were just kind of going my way, which is good, because the reality is I’ve played so little lately I was just trying my best to break 80.’’

Such is the quirky game of golf. Instead of looking like a weekend hack, Mulder drew within three shots of the first-day leader, Arizona State junior Jin Song. In all, only five players in the 144-player field were better than Mulder, who needs another good score today if he is to make the match play portion of this tournament that starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday.

The 20-year-old Song, who at 65 is one shot better than Scottsdale’s Michael Wog and Adam Walicki, certainly is no stranger to match play despite his youth. In 2008, fresh out of Pinnacle Peak High School, Song captured the Arizona Amateur when it was played at Troon Country Club, which is just down the road in Scottsdale from DC Ranch.

Other contenders who looked like they were a “gimme’’ to move on to Wednesday’s mano y mano format included Tucson’s John Bobroski and Alec Dahlquist of Phoenix, as well as ASU-bound freshman David Lowe of Scottsdale, who also shot 68. At 1-over 71 was Chandler’s Peter Kyo Won Koo, a 15-year-old who earlier this year captured the Arizona Stroke Play Championship.

Mulder, for one, knows match play can be a fickle format.

“I play a little bit of that at Whisper Rock (in Scottsdale) and also at a club in (Jupiter) Florida called The Dye Preserve, where I’ve been the club champ the last two years,’’ Mulder noted. “Obviously, those experiences are not quite the same level of competition as the Arizona Amateur, but it is a real great time.’’

Asked what he’s expecting as the six-day tournament unfolds, Mulder laughed.

“Not much. I started playing golf to fill that competitive void I lost when I quit pitching,’’ he said. “And, seriously, it’s turned out to be a real good thing because I have a lot of fun with it and it let’s me still compete.

“But I’ve got to be realistic, too. My little boys shortly will be 4 and 2 years old, and with the stuff I’m also doing for ESPN, well, those things in my life are really killing my golf game. And that’s OK, because I still manage to average a day or two a week – maybe! -- and that’s good by me.’’

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