Livin’ on the edge

Bingaman shoots 69 in pro debut

Brandon Bingaman of Montrose watches as his putt barely misses the hole on the sixth green during play Friday at the Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open golf tournament at Bookcliff Country Club.



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PRO PAYCHECK

Brandon Bingaman’s decision to turn pro was influenced by his ninth-place overall finish at the HealthONE Colorado Open three weeks ago. He tied for low amateur at the tourney, but he lost a playoff for the championship.

His runner-up amateur money, he said, was $575. If he’d played it as a pro, his ninth-place showing would have earned him a check for $3,500.

“I just felt like it was a good time to go for it,” Bingaman said. “And a home tournament is kind of cool.”

Course good to go low

Gunner Wiebe and Ryan Hogue share the lead after the first round of the Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open as each carded 63 strokes Friday at Bookcliff Country Club. They finished two strokes shy of the course record, 61.

Bookcliff’s head golf professional, Brett Winder, said he wasn’t surprised to see the 63s.

“Our course conditions are fabulous, so it’s in good shape for them to score,” Winder said. “The greens are rolling phenomenal.”



He forgot his 5-iron, locked his keys in the car and left himself with about one-third of the warm-up time he planned to have.

Brandon Bingaman’s first golf tournament as a professional got off to a start that could have sabotaged his debut. Instead of playing himself out of the tourney, though, he did enough to stay alive in the 75th Enstrom Rocky Mountain Open.

Bingaman shot a 2-under-par 69 with nines of 2-under 33 on the front and par 36 on the back Friday at Bookcliff Country Club. He sits in 13th place, six strokes off the lead shared by Aurora’s Gunner Wiebe and 2003 RMO champion Ryan Hogue of Mesa, Ariz.

“Two more days (to play), and I didn’t shoot myself out of it, so I’m feeling all right,” Bingaman said of the three-day tournament that will resume with the second round today at Tiara Rado Golf Course, then returns to Bookcliff for the final round Sunday.

Bingaman arrived at Bookcliff Country Club and realized he’d left his 5-iron at the shop. When he decided he’d rush to get his missing club, he discovered he’d locked his keys in the car. He estimated he waited 20 to 30 minutes for a locksmith to arrive and unlock his car, and he eventually got his 5-iron.

So much for his plan to start warming up at 11:15 a.m. to prepare for a 12:40 p.m. tee time. Instead, he had about 30 minutes to warm up.

“I wanted to get a good feel for the greens,” Bingaman said of his original plan.

He picked the right tournament to start his pro career, though. Bingaman is a veteran of Bookcliff and Tiara Rado, having grown up playing the courses as a member of the Fruita Monument High School team, then four years at Colorado Mesa University, where he graduated in May. He won the Colorado West Amateur championship in June at Bookcliff.

Familiarity came in handy, especially on the front nine, but he said he left several strokes on the course on the back nine.

“It helped on a few putts,” Bingaman said, “but I was baffled on a few coming in. ... Overall my putting was all right. It was my ball striking that let me down.”

The 63s posted by Hogue and Wiebe are impressive, but Bingaman believes such a number is within his reach.

“It’s out there,” Bingaman said of a 63. “If I hit the ball a little better on the back nine. … I made couple of brain-fart bogeys. That’s the scoring side, and I didn’t take advantage.”

Wiebe will buy Bingaman’s claim about the back nine being the scoring nine. After shooting 1-under on the front, he torched the back for 7-under, crediting his putting stroke, which needed the front nine to adjust to the greens’ speed. On four holes, Nos. 12 through 15, he shot 5-under, and he carded an eagle on No. 14.

And Wiebe did it site unseen. The 24-year-old said Friday was the first time he’d ever seen Bookcliff Country Club.

“Yesterday (Thursday) I only had time to check out Tiara Rado, which I was told, ‘That’s the one you need to check out,’ ” Wiebe said. “It would have been nice to have a practice round.”

He said a practice round at Bookcliff could have helped avoid the two bogeys he carded Friday. They stemmed from three putts on No. 3 and three putts on No. 8.

On the other hand, Wiebe said, a practice round might have emboldened him to play some holes more aggressively and go for birdies. Maybe, he said, he’d have given back a few strokes that way.

As is, a 63 is a great start, but it’s only Day 1. All Wiebe’s low round Friday means is it puts him in good position to make the cut to play Sunday.

“As long as I have a chance on the final day, I’m a happy guy,” said Wiebe, who has been a pro for two years and hasn’t won a tournament. He estimates he has finished second or third 10 or 11 times as a pro.

Hogue has won tournaments, and he said when he won the RMO, he shot a score similar to Friday’s.

“I shot 62 in the final round at Tiara Rado one year,” said Hogue, who is 35 and has been a pro for 14 years.

His round Friday started on the back nine, where he carded a 3-under 33. Coming in on 
Nos. 1 through 9, he shot 5-under 30.

“I started on No. 10 and started out par, birdie, and I eagled No. 12,” Hogue said. “Three-under through three, sometimes that will give you a little momentum for the rest of the day and kind of put you in a good mind-set.”

He kept the ball in the fairway and hit his greens in regulation.

“I gave myself a lot of looks at birdie and made a few of them,” said Hogue, who limited his bogeys to one. “The greens were the best I’ve seen them here.”

Three players are tied for first place in the amateur championship flight. Grand Junction’s Chase Wortmann, Colorado Mesa golfer Chris Aiken, and Taylor Montgomery, a high school senior from Henderson, Nev., each shot 68. Aiken played Tiara Rado. The other two opened at Bookcliff.

Three amateurs are tied for third place after shooting par, 71: Chris Berg of Fruita, Roger Walters of Rifle and Drew Trujillo of Montrose. Berg and Trujillo played Tiara Rado; Walters played Bookcliff.


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