Seven golfers with ties to the Greater Cedar Rapids Open (GCRO) will tee it up Monday, July 9, bidding for a shot to play with the PGA big boys in next weekend's John Deere Classic.
Defending GCRO champion Brock Mulder and 2009 champ Sean McCarty were among the seven to advance out of Thursday's 139-player John Deere pre-qualifier at Pinnacle Country Club in Milan, Ill. The top 50 and ties out of that field earned spots in Monday's 18-hole Open qualifier, which will also be held at Pinnacle.
Only the top four from Monday's 79-player field will advance to the John Deere Classic, which begins Thursday, July 12, at the TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Ill.
Jason Knutzon of Altoona, Iowa, who finished second in the GCRO in 2004, losing a playoff to Gary Christian, finished second in Thursday's pre-qualifier with a 5-under-par 66. Knutzon, who has made a living playing golf on the Asian Tour, has played in the U.S. Open and the British Open. Josh Sandman of Chicago won the pre-qualifier with a 65.
Patrick Duffy of Appleton, Wis., who tied for seventh in last year's GCRO, shot a 67 in the pre-qualifier and tied for third to advance to Monday's tournament. Duffy is scheduled to play in the GCRO later this month.
Former University of Iowa golfer and Iowa City West star Jonathan Feldick, who is scheduled to return to the GCRO this year, tied for fifth with a 3-under 68 and will give it a shot Monday.
Mulder, who appears to be rounding into shape after fighting a nagging back injury, tied for 11th at the pre-qualifier with a 2-under 69. Mulder, the Waterloo native who now calls Dallas home, is just coming off a second-place finish at a Dakotas Tour event. Mulder played in the John Deere Classic in 2007 but missed making the weekend cut.
Also tying for 11th was Ryan Blaum, a three-time All-America selection while playing at Duke. The Coral Gables, Fla., golfer is scheduled to compete in his first GCRO along with rookie pro brother Brent. Ryan has won more than $10,000 this year on the NGA Tour and has won more than $235,000 on the NGA since turning pro in 2007. He won the 2011 Kandy Waters Memorial Classic last September after a 13-month battle with mononucleosis.
McCarty, the head professional at Brown Deer Golf Club in Coralville, shot a 1-under 70 to tie for 20th at the pre-qualifier and advance. McCarty is vying for his fifth appearance in the John Deere. He last earned a spot in 2008 and in 1997 made the cut.
Jon Mansfield of Clearwater, Fla., who has competed in the last two GCRO's and is also on tap to play this year, advanced to Monday's qualifier by finishing in a tie for 35th with an even-par 71.
The 14th annual GCRO will be played July 27-29 at Hunters Ridge Golf Course in Marion. Sponsorship opportunities and foursomes in the pro-am are still available. Go to www.gcropen for information or call tournament co-founder Jim McPartland at 319-310-5745 or Hunters Ridge head golf professional Nate Severin at 319-377-3500.
If you would like to volunteer at this year's tournament, call Melissa Ewing, volunteer chair, at 563.209.2694 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don Wojciechowski resides in the Hunters Ridge Golf Course community and plays the course on a regular basis. He's a former sports editor for a suburban Chicago daily newspaper and an avid golf fan.