SALEM, Ore. – Needing only 25 putts over 18 holes, Linfield’s Alex Fitch breezed to a 3-under-par 69, forging a five-stroke lead after the first day of the Willamette Invitational Saturday at Illahe Hills Country Club.
Fitch and Linfield’s ‘A’ squad lead the four-team tournament, 15 strokes in front of challenger George Fox at 315. Linfield’s ‘B’ team sits at 329, followed by host Willamette at 333.
Fitch’s closest pursuer is teammate Taylor Klopp (Soph., Eugene, Ore.), who fired a 2-over 74 on Saturday, two strokes better than George Fox’s Mike Ulstad. Taylor Pirnke (Soph., Mill Creek, Wash.), representing Linfield’s ‘B’ squad shares fourth place with Linfield’s A.J. Taylor (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.) and George Fox’s Kyle Wilson.
Klopp started the tournament on a roll, hitting four birdies to open play. Eventually, his game bogged down with a series of even pars and bogeys.
“The greens were tough, the rough was long and the fairways were wet,” said Klopp, sizing up the country club’s course conditions. “The ball wasn’t rolling out as far and the course was definitely playing longer.”
It didn’t help, either, that the greens at Illahe were recently plugged and sanded, making for some challenging putts.
NEXT: Second-round play begins Sunday afternoon at 1:48 p.m.
Coach Greg Copeland
Eyeing repeat championship
Director of Sports Information
McMinnville, OR 97128