Van Orman leads 20th MGA Senior Open by three shots

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (August 29, 2016)Bill Van Orman of Meadow Brook carded five birdies and an eagle en route to a 6-under 65 in the opening round of the 20th MGA Senior Open Championship at Brooklawn Country Club on Monday. His round, which featured just one bogey, earned him a three-shot cushion heading into Tuesday’s final round.

Related: Round 1 Results | Final Round Pairings | Photos

Carl Alexander of Golf Club of Purchase, who played alongside Van Orman, sits in second following a 3-under 68 which featured an eagle on the par-5 11th. Reigning champion Mark Mielke, Brent Studer of Metedeconk and Greg Baker of Rockaway River posted matching 2-under 69s to be within striking distance.

Van Orman, who took runner-up honors in the Met PGA Senior Match Play this year, tallied a bogey on the second hole, but that proved to be his only miscue of the day. After missing a couple opportunities inside 15 feet early in the round, Van Orman made his first birdie on the par-4 sixth. He quickly jumped to 2-under thanks to an eagle on the par-5 eighth, hitting a 4-iron from 200 yards to just two feet on a blind approach. According to Van Orman, that strike jumpstarted his round and led to a strong ball striking performance the remainder of the day.

He added tap-in birdies from two feet on Nos. 12 and 16 as his solid iron play continued, while making putts in the 12 to 15-foot range on Nos. 13 and 16 kept him rolling as well. Van Orman had looks inside of 20 feet on the final two holes, but stress-free pars led to his 6-under 65, which tied the second lowest round in the championship’s history.

Looking forward to the final round, Van Orman remarked how high the quality of players are close behind him, which will keep him shooting for birdies during Tuesday’s final round.

Meanwhile, Alexander had three birdies during his opening seven holes and his own eagle on the par-5 11th moved him to 5-under. Though he carded a bogey-five on the 14th and a double-bogey six on the 16th, Alexander bounced back with a birdie-three on the 17th. A par on the last led to his 3-under 68.

Baker carded six birdies during his afternoon round, but also scattered in four bogeys on the day en route to the 2-under 69. Studer notched five birdies during his round and Mielke four.

“My putter was working well all day,” reported Mielke, who finished tied for 11th in the 101st Met Open at Glen Oaks last week. “I didn’t hit it all that well on the back nine—made a couple bogeys, a couple birdies—but, on the front nine I hit it pretty solid.”

Putting is typically a key to success around Brooklawn, which was redesigned by A.W. Tillinghast in 1929. “A lot of these greens are really sloped from back to front,” remarked Mielke, referencing Tillinghast’s trademark. “If you got it past the hole, you had to be real careful on the downhillers.”

Jim McGovern of White Beeches, Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker, Mark Yannotta of Anchor Golf Center and Darrell Kestner of Deepdale rounded out those with sub-par rounds on Monday, all carding 1-under 70s. McGovern’s round featured drastically different nines, as he made the turn in 5-over but came roaring back behind six birdies on the challenging inward nine en route to his 70. He reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 11-13, then three more on Nos. 15-17 to come out with a red score, firing a scorching 29 on the back nine. Kestner, who claimed the title in 2005, is eyeing another top finish, having earned runner-up honors each of the last two years.

Craig Thomas of Metropolis, Jim Wahl of Whippoorwill Club, and amateurs Patrick Pierson of Hollowbrook and George Zahringer III of Deepdale round out the top-10 from the opening round, all with even-par 71s.

Brooklawn, which has hosted four USGA championships, played to a par 71 at 6,621 yards, with its tree-lined fairways and sloping green complexes requiring sharp play from tee to green.

Following Monday’s play, the starting field of 114 players was cut to the top 40 and ties. A total of 43 players made the cut at 3-over 74 or better. Play will begin at 8 a.m., while the final group of Van Orman and Alexander will tee off at 10:58 a.m. Live scoring will be available for the entire field during Tuesday’s final round, while additional updates can be found on the MGA’s Twitter (@MGA1897) and snapchat (mgagolf1897).

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