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Collegians leading the way on links

Pair of U.S. college players fire six-under opening-round scores at Canadian Amateur

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A pair of U.S. college players set the pace on the opening day of the Canadian Men's Amateur Golf Championship on Monday.

Jonathan Garrick, who's heading for his junior year at UCLA, birdied his final two holes and played a bogey-free round for a six-under 66 at Southwood Golf and Country Club.

Garrick, of Atherton, Calif., was one of the last players off the course on a warm, summer day with only a moderate breeze. He matched the 66 posted early in the day by Iowa Hawkeyes senior Brian Bullington.

Bullington began his day with a bogey at the par-5 10th but made eight birdies in total on Southwood, where the wind wasn't near enough to deter the long hitters from belting their drivers a country mile.

The expansive Southwood, at a shorter-than-it-can-be 7,130 yards for the championship, yielded 20 of the day's best 22 scores against par, those three-under or better.

Elmhurst, the main venue for this years' championship, is stretched to its max at 6,812 yards for par 70. All players switch courses for Round 2 today, then the cut will be made to the low 70 and ties for Wednesday and Thursday.

Among the chasers and in the hunt after Day 1 are 2013 Manitoba co-player-of-the-year Josh Wytinck of Pine Ridge, Canadian men's national team player Garrent Rank of Elmira, Ont., and Ricardo Celia of Columbia, all in at five-under 67 at Southwood.

The national men's team, coached by Winnipeg's Derek Ingram, also has several other players near the top of the leaderboard, with Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., in at four-under 68 and Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Chris Hemmerich of Kitchener, Ont., opening with three-under 69s, all at Southwood.

Rank, 26, has been in great form in 2014, the best of his three years on the national team. He was second at the Players Amateur in South Carolina, tied for third in the Monroe Invitational and made the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur Public Links after gaining entry through qualifying with a score of 129 for 36 holes in June in Michigan.

"I think it's the last three years being on the national team, gradually improving and gradually starting to play better," Rank said of his season. "I've been working a lot harder on my game and I think three years of work, it's starting to pay off."

One thing where he's detected progress, and something which will clearly come into play today and this week, is playing well after a low round.

"I've tried to stay in the moment, play one shot at a time," Rank said. "After (a career-best 62 in South Carolina earlier this summer) I shot two-under 70. That felt like I shot a million but still, I still played solid.

"One day you might make everything and other days they might not go in. Like today. I think I could have been eight-under. There's good breaks and bad breaks and today they kind of evened out."

Rank had just one bogey on Monday, that at Southwood's par-four sixth, his 15th. But four birdies, and an eagle at Southwood's par-five fourth, made for a pretty good day.

"I played OK," he said. "I was really efficient early on and made a couple of mistakes coming in. But this is a good start."

Hemmerich, who's coming off a win at the Ontario Amateur, had six birdies on Monday but a few blips with three bogeys.

Still, the 21-year-old is also off to a good start.

"I like it," he said of Southwood. "The wind got up on our front nine. This definitely favours someone who hits the ball long. It's nice to play one of those courses. Good shape and I enjoyed it."

His one day of bombing fun -- and for many other players, too -- will be replaced with a more tactical requirement today and the rest of the week at Elmhurst.

"You really have to think about when you want to hit driver and when you don't," he said of Elmhurst. "I hit a lot more irons and hybrids off the tee than I do here. And you've really got to make sure you leave yourself below the pin at Elmhurst.

"The greens are exceptionally sloped front to back."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 5, 2014 D3

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