Title chase

Bingaman takes 4-shot lead at Colorado West Amateur

Sean Robbins chips onto the second green Friday at Bookcliff Country Club during the first round of the Colorado West Amateur. Robbins, the defending champion, trails first-day leader Brandon Bingaman by six shots.

Enough of the runner-up stuff. Brandon Bingaman doesn’t want to settle for second place again at the Colorado West Amateur golf tournament, and this year might be his last chance to do something about it.

So, the former Fruita Monument High School and Colorado Mesa University standout made a statement Friday about his intentions by firing a 5-under-par 66 to grab a four-stroke lead after the opening round of the three-day tourney at Bookcliff Country Club.

“Two more days of this would be good,” said Bingaman, who knows large early leads bring no championship guarantees.

Last year provided an indelible reminder when Bingaman led by six strokes after two rounds but finished second to CMU teammate Sean Robbins after Robbins’ final-round charge gave him a one-shot victory.

Bingaman will assume nothing while seeking more of what he delivered Friday.

Bingaman, who concluded his CMU career this spring and aspires to play professionally, didn’t card a bogey until No. 18, when he nearly recovered from a poor tee shot but missed a three-foot putt for par. He couldn’t complain, though, after a round with four birdies and an eagle.

The latter came on No. 12, a 560-yard par-5, and was made possible by knocking a 4-iron 235 yards on his second shot, putting the ball eight feet from the pin. He then sank his putt.

Bingaman said he “kind of caught fire on the back nine,” and that eagle “got me going.” He went out with a 34 and came in with a 32.

“I was just hitting the ball solid,” he said. “I was making a lot of pars, and I recovered when I made bad shots.”

Bingaman was one of three players to break par in the opening round. Scott Sullivan, who has worked with Bingaman as an assistant coach at Colorado Mesa, and Chris Berg both carded a 70.

Sullivan said his goal was to shoot a bogey-free round, and he had it in his sights through 14 holes until his putter betrayed him. He three-putted Nos. 15, 16 and 17, then concluded his round with a bogey

Of his 70, he said, “It’s OK. Today I just tried to hit it in the right spots on the green, and if you make a putt, you make a putt. Don’t try to knock down the flags.”

Sullivan held his index fingers about a foot apart when showing the distance of the putt he missed on No. 16.

“I wish I had that one back,” he said.

Berg is the leader of the first flight and wasn’t thinking about winning the overall title, in part because he thought the overall champion can come only from the championship flight. Actually, Bookcliff assistant PGA professional Tim Tafoya said the champion can come from any flight.

Even then, Berg said, “I’ve got some ground to make up.”

He’ll focus instead on his flight, where he’s on a mission similar to Bingaman’s, aiming to win the first-flight championship that eluded him last year. Berg lost on the third playoff hole to Gary Carpendale.

Two players shot even-par in the first round: Chase Wortmann in the championship flight and Bob Rognmoe in the first flight.

Wortmann, a three-time champion of the Colorado West Amateur, said his 71 was a welcome start to the tournament after he opened with a 78 last year. He followed with a second-round 69 last year, but the big number on Day 1 spelled doom for title contention.

“These tournaments, it’s a three-day deal, and the first day you have to put a number up, because you definitely can play yourself out of it,” Wortmann said.

He offset four bogeys with four birdies Friday and added, “I just couldn’t quite keep it going when I’d get a birdie. I’d get one and give it back.”

Wortmann won three straight Colorado West titles, the last one coming in 2006, to which he said, “It’s been a while. But I’m playing better now, so we’ll see how it goes. ... You want to be in that final group on Sunday because that’s when you have the most fun.”

Dane Hamilton leads the second flight with a 73, Bud Bower paced the third flight with an 81, Tom Wattier is tops in the fourth flight with an 84, and Dutch Denbleyker’s 80 leads the fifth flight.


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