Pulk, Klein share lead after first round of 14th Senior Open of Virginia

vsgaBy Chris Lang

MIDLOTHIAN – The two players atop the leaderboard at the 14th Senior Open of Virginia presented by Independence have differing levels of experience at Independence Golf Club.

One of the co-leaders after Monday’s first round, Glen Allen’s Hank Klein, is a member at Independence and knows the course like the back of his hand. The other co-leader, Williamsburg’s Dave Pulk, was playing just his second round at Independence, but he learned very quickly what to do and what not to do on the challenging layout.

“I’m not used to Champion Bermuda greens, so I’m really surprised I putted as well as I did today,” said Pulk, who made six birdies and posted a 3-under-par 69 on Monday. “In the practice round, I couldn’t read the greens real well. I couldn’t pick up the break. … But the key is to find the fairways, hit the greens and give yourself some opportunities. If you hit it a little bit offline, it’s going to be a struggle.”

Klein, a VSGA event veteran who turned 50 in May and is playing in his first Senior Open, knew all about the tricky greens at Independence, which were playing fast and deceptively straight. Though he hasn’t played a ton of competitive golf lately, he had some confidence heading into this event simply because of his knowledge of the course.

“I’ve always played pretty consistent, even when I take a layoff or something like that,” Klein said. “I just go out and have fun and shoot what I shoot. Some of the guys out here, the local guys, they told me I could contend on this golf course. I definitely liked to think to myself that I’d have a chance. So we’ll see what happens.”

Klein opened his round by three-putting on No. 1 for bogey, but he settled down and made four birdies and no bogeys in the rest of his round to move to the top of the leaderboard. Pulk started with three birdies in his first four holes, made the turn at 3 under and got it to 5 under after 13 holes before hitting a snag at the end of his round. He found the spongy, grabby rough on both 16 and 17, making bogey on both holes.

The co-leaders will enter Tuesday’s second and final round one stroke clear of the four players tied for second at 2 under. Professionals Glenn McCloskey (Loudoun G&CC) and Brendan McGrath (Hidden Creek CC) returned rounds of 2-under 70, as did amateurs Keith Myers (Blue Hills GC) and Jon Hurst (Fredericksburg CC).

McGrath said his ability to hit greens played a huge role in his success – he hit all 18 in regulation. He also had a couple of excellent wedge shots that set him up for birdies, including one out of the rough on 16 that left him with a kick in.

“It was a good shot from the moment it hit my club,” McGrath said. “It doesn’t happen all the time, trust me. Many times it doesn’t go where I want it, but that one felt good right away.”

Hurst turned 50 last month and is playing in his first event as a senior.

“Ask all the guys, I couldn’t wait (to turn 50), so I could get it where I could hit it with these guys and not have these young guys hitting it past me every time,” Hurst said.

Hurst was 2 over through seven holes before making birdie on No. 8. He played the rest of his round bogey free and made three more birdies to post his 70.

Myers made three birdies and one bogey. McCloskey had eight pars and a birdie on the front nine, but his inward nine was significantly more eventful—four birdies and three bogeys.

Amateur Robert Slavonia (VSGA eClub Alexandria) and professional Tom Melideo (International CC) enter Tuesday tied for seventh after each signed for 1-over rounds of 71.

Two-time defending champion Buck Brittain of Tazewell (The Virginian GC) struggled to an openinground 76 and is seven shots off the lead. Other notable players in the hunt include past champions Keith Decker of Martinsville and professional Tim Lewis (Eaglewood GC), who are among the six players tied for ninth after shooting even-par rounds of 72. Professional Chip Sullivan (Royal New Kent GC) also shot 72.

VSGA Senior Amateur champion Steve Serrao (Willow Oaks CC) shot a 1-over 73 and is four strokes back, as are professionals Rick Schuller (Stonehenge G&CC) and Ricky Touma (Burning Tree Club), both of whom are past Senior Open champions.

Chris Lang is the editor of Virginia Golfer magazine and the VSGA’s manager, digital media.

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