Chesterton’s John Flanagan takes first-round lead at Gary Amateur
By Mike Hutton 613-0141 or firstname.lastname@example.org June 8, 2013 8:52PM
Taylor Noel of Crown Point at South Gleason Golf Course on Saturday June 8, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 10, 2013 6:59AM
GARY — John Flanagan had never played South Gleason Golf Course.
It was all a mystery to him — a wonderful, delectable mystery as it turned out.
Flanagan, an Illinois transplant, shot a 3-under 68 Saturday in the opening round of the Gary Amateur.
That was good enough for a one-stroke lead over Kirk Smith and a two-stroke lead over last year’s champion, Taylor Noel. Tyler Nicol, a junior at Calumet College, also shot a 1-under-70.
Flanagan, who lives in Chesterton, was utterly unshaken by the dime sized greens and the long par 4s.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” he said.
And, pretty happy to be on top of a leaderboard that has lots of quality players on it.
Past champions Dave Vlasic, Jim Ford and Billy Smitka are all even par. With the possibility for tucked pins, rain and winds of up to 20 miles per hour in the forecast, anything is possible Sunday.
Flanagan was masterful on the front nine, making birdies on Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7. He made a bogey on No. 9 and then another coming in on No. 10 and 16. A birdie on No. 12 kept him at 3-under.
Flanagan got the hang of Gleason pretty quick. Keep the ball below the pins and get it close with the lags.
“If you get above the pins, it’s not easy to two putt,” he said.
Smith, the winner of the senior division of the 2011 Lake-Porter Championship, had a putting day that average players can only dream about.
He took just 22 putts.
He made four birdies and two bogeys.
Smith, who had rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder around Thanksgiving, was happy to get back into the thick of things.
“This is the best I’ve played since the surgery,” he said
Smith was playing with Mark Barenie, a past champion and a good friend. He helped him get through the round.
“It was nice,” he said. “He kept me calm.”
Smith was happy to have the tournament back at South Gleason. For the last four years, Turkey Creek hosted the event after Gleason was flooded in 2008. Players raved about the condition of the course.
“It’s great that it’s back,” Smith said. “There is a lot of tradition here and Donnie (Plogh) and Bob (Farag) did a great job getting it back into shape.”
Noel, who just graduated from the University of Tampa, was striping the ball off the tee. His putting just wasn’t quite well.
“I hit it real well,” he said. “I just couldn’t make anything.”
Nicol, the No. 1 player for Calumet College, was able to ground out a good round.
Smitka made four straight birdies on the back nine — from Nos. 12 to 15 — to get it back to even.
Vlasic was even on both sides.
“I hit it great,” he said. “I just couldn’t make anything.”