WESTFIELD CENTER — No one was more shocked to find himself just seven shots off the lead after Monday’s opening round of the Ohio Open Championship than Pete Skirpstas.
The former Medina standout found a way to get it done and is tied for 26th to remain in the thick of things along with a host of other area golfers after opening day action at Westfield Group Country Club.
“I hit a lot of bad shots, but got it together somehow,” Skirpstas said. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow, because I played about as bad as I could today and still I’m right near the top of the leaderboard.”
Playing the rugged North Course, Skirpstas was at even-par 36 at the turn before coming out on the back nine and recording birdies on three straight holes to finish 1-under with a 71 and seven strokes back of leader Andrew Bailey of Rocky River. Bailey carded a 6-under 64.
A combination of keeping the ball in play and, with the exception of two holes that he three-putted, making crucial putts helped put Skirpstas in a good position for making the cut after today’s second round.
“I’m just getting all the bad shots out of the way,” Skirpstas joked. “I started making good putts and got a little lucky with a few shorts, because honestly I was just trying to keep it inside the tree lawn all day long. I played the par-3s real well and I’m the greatest putter in the world, I just keep telling myself that.”
Like Skirpstas, Westfield Center’s Parker Hewit also is in a tie for 26th after carding a 1-under 69 on the South Course.
Hewit, a Cloverleaf graduate, also made the most of his day after the turn as he went from playing 1-over to making three birdies in his first four holes, each par-4s, to save the round.
“I definitely have some ground to make up today,” Hewit admitted. “After the first five or six holes, this round could’ve been a very different round. I was able to get something going (in my final nine), which helped a little and put myself in a better position, but I just felt like I made a couple of poor swings out there that cost me some shots.”
A major factor, as it was for most of the field, was a wind that made it hard to judge which way the ball was going to go. The humidity also played a factor in Hewit’s three bogeys to open the round.
“It made it really difficult to pick a club and be confident with it, when you’re not sure,” he said. “It was a little bit of a guessing game and when you’re not hitting it solid, it makes it twice as hard.”
Three county residents played even-par as Medina’s Bob Koch, Austin Schreiber and Montville Township’s Howard Clendenin are tied for 40th. Koch and Clendenin both shots 72s on the North Course, while Schreiber fired a 70 on the South.
Patrick Luth (Medina), Spencer Koch (Medina) and George Papas (Hinckley Township) sit in 81st place. Luth carded a 2-over 72 on the South and Koch and Papas posted 74s.
The opening day did not go as planned for Medina’s Bob Henighan as the former Gazette MVP struggled to a 3-over 73 and couldn’t crack the top 100 after he placed in a tie for 10th overall at last summer’s Open.
“No good,” Henighan said. “I just hit it bad. I actually made some putts, but it was everything. The conditions were perfect, it was just me. I wish I had an excuse.”
Six other area golfers shot 78 or better with Daniel Terry (Wadsworth, 75), William McKinley (Medina, 75), Nick Schley (Brunswick, 76), Michael King (Medina, 77), Michael Bishop (Medina, 78) and Jason Martin (Westfield Center, 78) still within shooting distance.
Former Brunswick standout Steve Weir fired an even-par 70 in his opening round on the South Course. The current Berea resident, who is the head golf coach at Cleveland State University, is tied for 40th overall.
• Black River graduate David Morgan is tied for 105th overall after carding a 3-over 75 on the North. Morgan, who resides in Wellington, saved his round with pair of birdies on the back nine.
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