Rocky Mountain Open's two separate courses make tournament a tough one

Grand Junction’s Steve Malloy chips onto the ninth green Friday during the first round of the Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open at Bookcliff Country Club. Malloy’s chip ended up two feet from the cup for a tap-in putt.

The 2012 Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open golf tournament provides a rare challenge.

It takes place at two different courses during the three-day event, each course with its own tests that can frustrate professionals and amateurs alike.

Golfers who spent Friday at Bookcliff Country Club move to Tiara Rado Golf Course today, and vice versa. The differences make it hard to judge the field after Day 1.

“I think playing on two separate courses is the main benefit and challenge for players here,” Grand Junction head golf professional Mike Mendleson said. “It makes communication tricky from a setup standpoint, but they’re not playing the same course each day, and it gives them a different look. The green speeds are a little different at each course,”

Tiara Rado is a wide-open, 6,182-yard course that favors golfers who can drive well.

Bookcliff is a little beat up and requires a solid putter, Mendelson said. It is open year-round, which has taken a toll on the grass, and the scorching summer hasn’t helped. But the pin placements are especially brutal, leading to some three- and four-putts.

“The pins were on sides of hills, and it’s tough to hit it in the right spot,” said Scott Sullivan, an amateur from Grand Junction. “You have to get birdies, and it’s hard on those greens.”

Dustin Pimm, last year’s pro champion, teed off at Bookcliff on Friday. He said he notices a lot of changes between this year and last. The offseason temperature changed the condition of the course, he said, and pin placements this year changed approach shots drastically.

Pimm, of Sandy, Utah, sits at an even-par 71, seven strokes behind leader Nick Mason of Denver. Mason played Round 1 at Tiara Rado.

“Two different courses, but they’re pretty similar in terms of softness,” Pimm said. “(Bookcliff) has the pins in tough spots, but you just have to go out there and be aggressive and attack the course and hopefully make some putts.

“These courses are playing longer this year, and the pins are accessible, you just have to put it on the (correct) side of the pin to have a legitimate birdie shot. They’re both tough courses, up and down. Last year I had a good start and kind of rode that in. This year I had a rough start and just had to grind when the wind picked up. Luckily there are two more days. Anything can happen on a different course.”

Justin Bardgett of Chesterfield, Mo., and Doug Garwood of Chatsworth, Calif., rounded out the top three at 65 and 67, respectively. Eight of the 11 top pro finishers on Day 1 started at Tiara Rado. 

Among amateurs, Colorado Mesa University golfers Sean Robbins, Brandon Bingaman and Matt Weiss ended the first round in the top five of the amateur division with Robbins shooting a 67 to lead the field, up one stroke on Bingaman. Weiss ended the day in fifth with a 71.

Four-ball fun

The pros and amateurs during the first two rounds of the tournament also are involved in a game of four-ball. Four-ball pits two teams within each foursome, a pro and amateur on each team, against one another with the lowest individual score taking the hole.

“The one thing that stands out to me about this tournament is that you get to play four-ball with the pros on the first two days while still playing your individual ball,” said Matt Hall, an amateur from Grand Junction. “It makes it enjoyable for us amateurs. I’m not sure how the pros like it, but it builds camaraderie among us.”

Pimm was Hall’s four-ball partner.

“It’s different,” Pimm said, “and I’m new to it, but Matt’s a great player, and we really ham and egged it pretty well out there today. It’s something to look forward to tomorrow, playing better for him.”


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