By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
After two straight days of solid rain, Chesley Oaks was looking more like a lake rather than a golf course set to play host to the latest Sunbelt Senior Tour stop.
On Tuesday, however, the skies opened up, the greens dried out and 25 golfers got to swing the sticks during the first round of the sixth annual Yellowhammer Open.
“Our course drains exceptionally well,” general manager Cary Craig said. “It was still a little damp, though, and that made it play a lot longer. With the exception of the leaders, the scores are about where I thought they’d be.”
Gary Rusnak, of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., got the ball rolling, literally, with a solid 6-under round of 65 to take the lead in the senior divison (47-55) heading into Day 2.
Rusnak made four birdies in a five-hole stretch to go along with bookend birdies on the first and 18th holes. He already has two second-place finishes on the Senior Sunbelt Tour but is still searching for his first 2013 victory.
Tuesday’s round was certainly a good start.
“A 65 is a good score on this day,” Craig said of the clubhouse leader. “When you get on those back tees, this course can play long, especially when it’s wet. It was just a great round of golf.”
Roger Rowland (Ocala, Fla.) and Dave Rummells (Kissimmee, Fla.) sit three shots back in a tie for second place after carding rounds of 68. Defending-champion Jim Chancey is tied for fourth with Mark Knecht and Don Levin after a 2-under round of 69.
“I played all right today,” Chancey said. “I didn’t really start off hitting the ball too well because it was cold.”
Despite being four shots back, Chancey is confident in his ability to close the gap over the next two days.
“I feel good with this golf course,” the Florida native said. “Gary’s a good player, though. If he continues to play this well, he’ll be pretty hard to catch.”
Rounding out the top 10 were Javier Sanchez (70), Tim Conley (70), Harold Sauer (75) and Rob Willbanks (75).
Over in the super-senior division (55+), John Ross, of Bramwell, W.V., displayed some fine golf as well, carding a 65 of his own to match Rusnak for low round of the day in the entire tournament field.
“I’m pretty pleased with how I played,” Ross said. “I hit it well and made some putts.”
When asked what was working best for him, Ross paused a bit before his playing companion, Greg Odom, eventually came up with an answer.
“He did everything well,” Odom said with a laugh. “Don’t let him tell anybody otherwise.”
With a couple of top-10 finishes already, Ross knows he’s in good position to make a charge for his first win on Thursday.
To do that, though, he’ll need more than just one good round.
“I just need to come out and play solid again,” he said. “The course is drying out well, so there will be some good golf.”
Odom is alone in second after a round of 70, while Bob Flanagan and Steve Novak are just one stroke behind in third after turning in their scorecards.
Cullman’s Bob Kurtz (78) is tied for 10th.
With the rain long gone and nothing but sunshine in the forecast, Craig is hoping the last two days of the Open will showcase some of the best golf these players have to offer.
“We’ve got some good weather coming up,” he said. “Hopefully, there’ll be some good golf as well.”
The first wave of golfers will tee off for today’s second round at 8:30 a.m.
‰ Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.