FRENCH LICK – After 36-holes, the leaderboard is packed at the 101st Indiana Open Championship. Six players posted under-par totals at the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort, including Keith Blythe, Decatur, who leads by one.
Blythe paired yesterday’s 70 with a 68 today, for two-day total of 2-under-par, 138.
“I haven’t made any big numbers yet,” Blythe said. “I’ve been hitting the ball well and haven’t gotten into much trouble off the tee, which is key. I have also been faring pretty well on these greens.”
Blythe travelled to the Ross Course frequently as a junior golfer to compete in an annual AJGA event. He says the memories keep him coming back.
“I wouldn’t say this course fits my game perfectly, but I always seem to play well here,” Blythe said. “I have great memories from playing here as a kid and that’s given me a positive mindset.”
Blythe played collegiately at the University of Tennessee and won both the Northern and Southern Opens back in 2000. Due to a career change, he stopped playing competitively, but is excited to be back in the mix.
“I finally have a little bit more time to play now and I’m excited about it,” Blythe said. “I’ve never contended for a major, so it feels great to be at the top of the leaderboard, especially at age 42.”
Four players trail by one, including Timothy Hildebrand, Westfield, Graham McAree, Fishers, Nicolas Grubnich, Crown Point, and Andrew Rhodes, Indianapolis.
Hildebrand, the defending champion, says a win this year would be a humbling experience.
“It’s just fun to have another opportunity at it,” Hildebrand said. “If I were able to win, it would be very humbling and mean a lot. There are so many players here this week that I respect.”
McAree, a rising junior at the University of Indianapolis, has had a solid summer of tournament play, recently finishing fourth at the Indiana Amateur Championship at Elcona CC in Elkhart. With his first major win within arm’s length, McAree is excited for what’s to come.
“Putting is what got me here,” McAree said. “It’s key at this golf course and it’s my biggest strength. I hope to putt well the next two days, and we will see what happens. I’m definitely excited to be here.”
Grubnich, a past Indiana Amateur Champion (’14), says a win this week would be special.
“To win the two most prestigious events in the state is something I would be proud of for the rest of my life,” Grubnich said. “I plan to stay patient, stay below the hole and stick to my game plan.”
Rhodes, the 2016 Indianapolis Open Champion, also looks for his first major win, after a third place finish a few years back at Purgatory GC.
“I plan to keep playing conservatively,” Rhodes said. “I’m really just trying to stay out of trouble, play smart and miss in the best spots possible. It would be great to get a win this week.”
First round leader, Anthony Bradley, French Lick, is currently sixth after posting a 36-hole total of even-par, 140. An Assistant Professional at the Pete Dye Course just up the road, Bradley has local knowledge working in his favor.
“I’m comfortable out here,” Bradley said. “This course sets up nicely for me and I am more excited than anything. It feels like an adrenaline rush.”
After today’s round, the field was cut to the low 70 players, including ties at 11-over-par, 151.
Locally, several players are still alive and others missed the cut. Stephen Conrad of Syracuse is in the best position of the locals, sitting at four-over, tied for 18th at 144. Conrad followed his 71 Monday with a 73 Tuesday.
Michael Makris of South Bend is at plus-six, Jon Schram of Winona Lake is at plus-nine, Dave Pugh of Culver is at plus-ten as is Michael Sharp of Kendallville, and Wakarusa’s Alec Dutkowski is at plus-eleven.
Missing the cut from the area were Tanner Shepherd, Spencer Klimek, Augie Hartnagel, Will Petro, Zach Gurtner and Ryan Pasqualone.
Tee times begin today at 8 a.m.