It was a nearly perfect day for golf Friday at Browns Lake Golf Course in Burlington for the first round of the 50th annual Racine County Men’s Open.
The only thing missing were low scores.
The ideal conditions didn’t lead to any spectacular scores like last year’s first-round 66 by eventual champion Kaylor Steger, but a few players had some bursts of birdies Friday and are at or near the lead in the Championship Flight of the County Open, sponsored by H & H Fairway Enterprises.
Bendt Bendtsen and Brian Eitel had opposite beginnings on opposite nines, but ended up in the same place, tied for the lead with 1-under-par 71s.
In similar fashion, Mike Masik Jr. and Tom Chambers started on different nines and are tied for third with even-par 72s.
Recent Case High School graduate Sam Nolan and newcomer Tommy Larson are tied for fifth at 1-over 73 and three others — former champion Ricky Kuiper, Zach Nash and Paul Koszarek — are tied for sixth at 74.
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The leaderboard is crowded, with the top 15 players within five shots of the lead.
The Championship Flight moves Saturday to Ives Grove Golf Links in Yorkville for the second round on the White and Blue courses. The First, Second and Third flights begin play Saturday at Browns Lake. Spectators are welcome and there is no admission charge.
Use the Golf Genius app or the website (www.golfgenius.com) to follow the tournament. Live scoring, daily leaderboards and tee times are available for all four flights. The GGID (login) code is JYHFAF.
Bendtsen, the 10-time County Open champion who won the Racine Tri-Course Amateur Championship a month ago after a 14-year absence, started on the back nine Friday and struggled to get comfortable. He got going a bit with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole, but didn’t really get hot until the end of his round, when he birdied the final three holes for a 2-under 33 on the front nine, tied with Zach Shawhan for best score on the front.
“It wasn’t the smoothest of rounds,” Bendtsen said. “I had a slow start and had a hard time getting into the round. I hit into some bad spots and short-sided myself (around the greens).
“I made some good shots on the front nine, but got a little frustrated and geared it down.”
He made birdie putts of four feet on No. 7, eight feet on No. 8 and closed out the round with a 30-foot birdie putt.
Bendtsen still felt good about his round despite the inconsistency.
“I’ll take the 71,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse. I’m fortunate to be in a tie for the lead.”
Eitel, the son of tournament director and Ives Grove head pro Pete Eitel, started quickly on the front nine with three straight birdies on holes 2 through 4, then finished the front nine with a double bogey on No. 9 for a 1-under 34. The back nine was less eventful with two birdies and two bogeys for an even-par 37.
His six birdies were the most in the first round.
“I typically play well out here,” Brian Eitel said. I see it once in a while and I like the layout of the course. I was hitting good shots, but not making too many putts.”
Eitel has been near the lead over the last few years and last year, he shot a 70 last year and was still four shots back. He will have a little pressure Saturday as a co-leader.
“I’m feeling pretty good about going back to Ives,” Eitel said. “I’ve played it plenty of times and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
Chambers, a County Open regular for a couple decades, had one of his best opening rounds in the tournament with his 72.
Chambers started on the back nine and had six pars and a birdie in his first seven holes, then went double bogey-eagle on holes 17 and 18. It was one of four eagles in the first round, but the only one on the 472- yard, par-5 hole.
“The eagle corrected the double bogey,” Chambers said. “I was on the back of the (18th) green about 12 feet away. It was up there closer than I expected and I was fortunate enough to roll it in.”
He got back on his steady streak with eight pars on the front nine, along with his only bogey, a 5 on the 399-yard, par-4 seventh hole.
“It was a fun day and I had a good group,” Chambers said. “It was a beautiful day and the course was in nice shape. I was just happy to be out there.
“It’s hard to compete with Benny (Bendtsen), Ricky (Kuiper) and the other guys, but it should be fun (Saturday).”
Masik, who won the County Open in 2004, started on the front nine and had an up-and-down run with three bogeys and two birdies for a 1-over 36. On the back nine, like Chambers on the front, Masik had eight pars, all in a row, before finishing with a birdie on 18.
Nolan, who played with Brian Eitel, had a rough front nine with four bogeys in his first six holes, but he got back on track and had an eagle on the 568-yard, par-5 15th hole to help him get to his 73 .
Larson, a late entry who got into the tournament on an exemption, surprised Pete Eitel and others with his round. The Lake Geneva resident started on the back nine and had six pars and three birdies for a 3-under 34, the best back-nine score of the round. He came back to earth on the front nine with six pars, two bogeys and a double bogey for a 39.
THE EAGLES HAVE LANDED: The overall scores were higher than last year, when eight players broke par, but there probably weren’t as many eagles last year as there were this year.
Along with Chambers’ eagle on the 18th hole and Nolan’s on 15, there were two others, including a rare feat.
Nash holed out from the fairway for an eagle 2 on the 406-yard, par-4 ninth hole, and Mike Cerny had an eagle 3 on the 505-yard, par-5 14th hole. Cerny had bad luck otherwise, shooting an 87.
FUN WITH ANALYTICS: For those using www.golfgenius.com, you can see how many birdies, pars or bogeys any player had in his round.
Using analytics, which are not available through the Golf Genius app, you can see that Chambers has the steadiest round of the day in the field with his 72. His 14 pars were the most of any player and his one bogey was the least of any player.
Looking at the hole-by-hole comparison, the 18th hole yielded the most birdies with 17 and the 365-yard, par-4 fourth hole has the most pars with 37. The biggest bogey hole, surprisingly, was the 160-yard, par-3 17th hole with 27.
There were 101 total birdies in the first round, 461 pars, 339 bogeys and 120 double bogeys.