Sports

Former Shocker enjoys comforts of home

Julien Trudeau experienced a flashback a few minutes after he birdied his final hole for a 2-under-par 69 in Thursday's first round of the Wichita Open at Crestview Country Club.

"I was thinking to myself when I signed my card that back in the day, if we shot in the 60s, Grier (Jones) would give us a sleeve of balls," Trudeau said of the former PGA Tour player and men's golf coach at Wichita State. "I don't know if that still counts, but he owes me a sleeve of balls."

Trudeau, a 29-year-old rookie on the Nationwide Tour, was among 89 golfers who posted rounds in the 60s on the opening day of the $575,000 tournament on Crestview's North course. The former All-Missouri Valley Conference performer at WSU had three birdies and one bogey in his first competitive round at Crestview since the 2006 Wichita Open.

Familiarity on and off the course is this week's buzzword for Trudeau, who played Thursday in a white golf shirt sporting the logo of the Wichita Wingnuts, the city's independent baseball team. Trudeau toured Crestview's North course several times while practicing as a collegian. Jones made the Shockers play "two steps from the back tees," according to Trudeau.

Trudeau, who lives in Tempe, Ariz., is staying with former WSU pitcher Ben Keiter, an assistant general manager with the Wingnuts. He played golf with another ex-Shocker golfer, Jonathan May, at Flint Hills National on Wednesday.

A movie at the Warren Theatre has been one highlight of his return to Wichita. He also visited children at Via Christi Hospital on Tuesday with fellow pro Leif Olson.

Trudeau also plans to eat at Dog-N-Shake before he leaves town.

"This is my fifth week in a row out on the road, and it can get kind of boring," Trudeau said. "Not so much lonely because with phones and texting, it's pretty easy to keep in touch.

"But it's nice to have some face-to-face time with old friends. You can't really put a value on that."

Trudeau landed on the Nationwide Tour after missing out on a PGA Tour card by one shot at the tour qualifying tournament. He has made the cut in just two of 13 tournaments.

"This is not where I want to be forever, but it's a great place to learn," Trudeau said. "I'm going to take the first five to six months of this year as a learning experience.

"I'm not looking at it as a failure."

Good day for Bray — Terradyne Country Club pro Greg Bray wanted a few more birdies, but the ones he made at the ninth and 18th holes gave him a 2-under 69, his best round in a Wichita Open.

"I'm happy with it," said Bray, a veteran of five previous tournaments. "I played really well. I missed a couple of putts that I hit pretty well and didn't fall, but overall, I'm definitely happy."

Bray, who won a qualifier for local pros July 28 at Auburn Hills, has typically drawn a late afternoon tee time for one of his Wichita Open rounds. In a hot Kansas summer, that can present a variety of challenges.

"I like playing in the afternoon," Bray said. "The only bad thing about it is the greens get a little scarred up with the cleat marks and footprints, so it makes it a little bit tougher putting-wise. But it's not a big deal."

Bray will tee off at 9 a.m. today.

Here he goes again — Jhonattan Vegas, who seized a share of the first-round lead in last year's Wichita Open with a 64, bogeyed the first two holes Thursday. But the 25-year-old Venezuelan quickly recovered and finished the round in a tie for sixth with a 6-under 65.

"I didn't really panic," said Vegas, who started on the par-4 10th hole. "I hit a great shot on (No.) 12 and made birdie, and I knew at that point I was playing well enough to come back and shoot a great round."

While most Nationwide pros who go low feast on Crestview's back nine, Vegas rolled through the North course's opening nine in 5-under 30.

"If you hit it well, there are opportunities all over the course," Vegas said. "It's good to come back to a place where you've had success before and where you feel good about yourself."

Kansas connections — Wichita native Dodge Kemmer opened his first professional tournament with a 1-over 72 and was tied for 120th. Kemmer, a former Stanford golfer, bogeyed two of his first four holes. He finished with five bogeys and four birdies.

Ex-Kansas State golfer Aaron Watkins, who has a pair of top-15 finishes in Wichita Opens, was at even par. Topeka native Ryan Deutsch, who played collegiately at Washburn, shot a 74.

Etc. —William McGirt, No. 20 on the tour money list, withdrew prior to Thursday's round with a back injury.... Jay Delsing eagled the par-5 14th and 18th holes on his way to a 3-under 68.... The two former Wichita Open champions in the field, Brad Elder and Ben Bates, failed to get into red numbers. Elder (1999 and 2007) shot an even-par 71, while Bates (1997) carded a 73.

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