WESTFIELD CENTER: Uniontown’s Jake McBride beat the weather, the golf course and the players that finished before stormy weather caused a suspension of play at the 100th Ohio Open at Westfield Country Club.
McBride, 26, rode a hot putter to an 8-under 62 on Westfield’s North Course to take the first round lead on Tuesday before play was suspended at 4:45 p.m. with nearly half the field of 273 still on the course. It was called for the day at 7:15.
McBride, a graduate of North Carolina State, had nine birdies and one bogey to come within one shot of equaling the 61 shot by Akron’s Ryan Gutowski in 2016, also on the South Course. That is the lowest round of any Ohio Open held at Westfield.
Pickerington’s Nick Montes and Lebanon’s Austin Schoonmaker are tied for second after each shooting 4-under 66. Montes played the South while Schoonmaker was on the North.
Five players were tied for fourth at 3-under 67, including former champion TT Crouch, of Fredericktown. Play is scheduled to resume at 7 a.m. on Wednesday with the second round scheduled to begin immediately after.
“It was really stress-free,” said McBride, who tied for second in the 2016 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
McBride opened with three straight pars and a bogey before going on a roll in which he birdied four of the next five holes in making the turn at 3-under 31. The streak continued on the back nine with three birdies in his first four holes and two more over the final three.
“When I made that second (birdie) putt on the sixth something clicked and when I get it going I can really get it going,” he said. “If I can keep having my A-game together I feel I have a real shot at winning.”
McBride, who had been playing on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada prior to the epidemic, credited his putter.
“I made a couple of football fields worth of putts,” he said. “I didn’t have too many two-putts, I can tell you that.”
McBride, playing in his third straight Open, made six putts of more than 20 feet, including a 40-footer on the par-3 11th and 30-footers on the fifth and eighth. He estimated he missed two other birdie attempts from 10 to 12 feet.
The son of a high school basketball coach, McBride credited a new mental approach to the Open for his success.
“The last two years I put too much pressure on myself because I’ve always wanted to win this tournament,” he said. “I worked really hard in preparing for it and probably worked myself up too much. So, I took a different approach this time. I told my dad that I didn’t care if I didn’t play well. Didn’t care if I missed the cut. Didn’t care if I didn’t win. It was a different mindset. I just wanted to go out and enjoy it, enjoy playing.”
McBride’s only bogey came on the 436-yard fourth hole when he snap-hooked his tee shot. He bounced back, nicely, however by reeling off four straight birdies.
Tim is a Contributing Writer for the Northern Ohio PGA. Award-winning golf writer and sports reporter for the Plain Dealer, now retired. Contributor to the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, AP, other national publications.