Just when it looked like Veterans Day in the opening round of the Aurora City Golf Championship Saturday, a relative youngster found his way to the top of the leaderboard.
North Central College’s Brian Kirhofer, a West Aurora grad, shrugged off an hour-long rain delay and shot a 1-over-par 73 at Fox Valley Golf Club, and might have posted a number even more impressive if not for some problems on the back nine.
“I was driving the ball well, putting all right, and just staying out of trouble for the most part,” said Kirhofer, who works at Orchard Valley Golf Course. “I was on the second hole when the rain came and the delay made it kind of tough, but was able to make a few birdies after that.”
In Kirhofer’s foursome, 47-year-old Tom Ferguson carded a 74 to match a player who finished earlier, 59-year-old Gary Hunley. Another shot back were Luke Kreiter, Kirk Madison, Justin Prince and Jackson Clark at 75, while defending champion Jason Frantzen was in a group of four players to shoot 4-over 76.
Despite the rain delay, Kirhofer shot a 2-under 34 on the front nine, and came up with birdies at the third and fifth holes — the one on No. 5 after a fortuitous bounce following an errant drive. Then he birdied the 12th and 17th on the back.
“I got into some trouble on the back and couldn’t keep it together, but overall I’m not unhappy with this,” Kirhofer said. “It’s close to what I usually shoot and I came out just hoping to get myself into contention.”
Hunley, who works at Kirhofer Sports in Aurora, is the father-in-law of last year’s runner-up, Dan Anderson. He birdied the sixth and eighth holes and otherwise played a steady round.
“It’s my best round of the year,” he said. “I felt like the delay we had kind of helped me because I didn’t start out hitting it very well and I was on No. 4 when the rain came.
“It gave me some time and I kind of found what I’d been doing wrong to start.”
Ferguson, who works for the Illinois Lottery and once took third in this tournament, struggled a bit in his short game.
“I missed a few short putts or my play would have been more consistent,” he said. “Really, I can’t be too displeased because I played to my handicap.”
When it came to consistency, Kreiter cornered the market on a lack thereof. The Aurora Central Catholic grad, who will go to Illinois State in the fall, went out in 34 and came back in with a 5-over 41 after bogeys at the 10th and 11th and a double at the 13th. He also took a bogey at 18.
“Really, I’m happy with the score but after that front nine it could have been so much better,” he said.
Frantzen won last year’s event by a whopping 14 strokes, but he’ll have to take the comeback route this time.
“For some reason, I had trouble with the par-5s and that usually doesn’t happen to me out here,” he said after nines of 39-37. “But I feel like I’m right there. I didn’t shoot myself out of anything yet. There’s still 54 holes to go.”
Karl Schlichting and Adam Baumann also shot 4-over 76, Schlichting’s coming in the day’s final group.
The wind picked up after the rain delay, making it even tougher on the players in the later groupings.
Play moves Sunday to Phillips Park, with golfers using the same tee times as Saturday. The field will be flighted after Sunday’s round for play in the final 36 holes next weekend.Tags: golf