Dornes Sets Course Record En Route to Open Lead
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Gulph Mills Golf Club opened in 1919. And in the nearly 100 years of play since then, a pair of 63s marked the lowest rounds posted from the club's back tees. But that all changed on Monday, as J.D. Dornes fired a 9-under par 62 for the lead after the opening round of the 101st Pennsylvania Open, presented by LECOM. The 62 broke the existing club record that was set by former PGA Tour pro Charles Bolling, Jr. in 1978 and matched by Stu Ingraham in the 2008 Philadelphia PGA Head Professional Championship. Dornes wrote his name in the history books with a round that featured 10 birdies and just one bogey. Dornes was not the only impressive round on the day, as 15 players shot 67 or better and 39 players broke par on the day.
The round by Dornes was even more impressive considering that his only exposure to the golf course came from nine holes of a practice round on Sunday. The PGA Tour Latinoamerica player from Lancaster, Pa., didn't let that stand in his way, as he opened the round with four consecutive birdies. Starting on the back side, Dornes drained a downhill putt from 12 feet on No. 10 to open his birdie barrage. Short birdies on No. 11 and No. 12 pushed him to 3-under par through as many holes. Then on No. 13, Dornes found the right rough off the tee, but hit a 6-iron to 10 feet before knocking in another birdie. Two more birdies, on No. 16 and No. 18, enabled him to make the turn with a score of 30 (-6).
"The key here is you have to stay in good spots, because the rough is not easy," Dornes said. "I was able to do that today, especially early, and capitalize on that the rest of the round."
After a pair of pars to start his second nine, Dornes had his first tough par save of the day on No. 3. After his approach missed left of the green, Dornes had a 10-foot putt down the hill, but was able to convert it for the par. The Penn State graduate got his total to 7-under par with a birdie on the 117-yard par 3 fourth hole. His only bogey of the day came on No. 5, a 435-yard par 4. After hitting what he termed a "decent" approach shot to 20 feet, Dornes ended up lipping out a par putt.
The round ended much like it started for Dornes, with birdies on his final three holes of the morning to set the course record on the venerable Donald Ross design. For Pennsylvania Golf Association observers, the score shouldn't be a total surprise, as Dornes's competitive low score came in the 2016 Pennsylvania Amateur Championship at Moselem Springs, where he also fired a 62. Additionally, Dornes shot a 63 in the Maine Open earlier this year, so going low isn't a complete surprise.
"I'm very happy to come in with this score today," said Dornes, who noted that 9-under par is the lowest competitive round of his career in relation to par. "The course is in great shape and is just awesome. You have to keep yourself below the hole and stay in good spots here."
Defending champion Robert Rohanna is hot on the heels of his fellow PGA Tour Latinoamerica player, as he shot a 6-under par score of 65. Like Dornes, Rohanna had not seen Gulph Mills GC until Sunday.
"This is a great track, but it's very penal," Rohanna said. "You can have 10-foot putts all day but they're knee knockers. It's going to be a pretty intense next few days."
Rohanna bogeyed two of his first three holes, an early setback in his quest for his third career Pennsylvania Open. Both bogeys, he said, were due to poor tee shots.
"I didn't hit a good tee shot on either hole, and with a bad position off the tee, you can struggle here," Rohanna said.
For Rohanna, those two early bogeys would be the only blemishes on the scorecard. He carded eight birdies over the next 15 holes, including a 5-under 31 on the back nine.
"I putted really well today," Rohanna said. "My lag putting was good all day."
Rohanna, of Waynesburg, Pa., stated that he enjoys the courses in the Philadelphia region.
"Even though I'm five hours away from home, this feels like home," Rohanna said. "I really like Philly golf courses and the classic design and architecture."
With his limited knowledge of the golf course, Rohanna now feels much more comfortable after getting 18 more holes under his belt.
"My strategy won't really change for tomorrow, but I know what I'm going to hit on all of the holes now."
Jordan Gibbs, an assistant professional at the host club, tied Rohanna with a 65 in his morning round. Count Gibbs among those surprised by the low numbers produced on Monday.
"We've been trying to guess what the winning total would be," Gibbs said of the pro shop staff at Gulph Mills. "This is a course where you can make birdies, but I certainly didn't expect to see scores this low."
Gibbs put himself in that group of low scores with a fast start, as he began on the back nine and made the turn in 32. That included short putts for birdie on No. 10, No. 13, No. 15 and No. 18.
"I was fortunate to hit some good shots and give myself short looks at birdie from the start of the round," Gibbs said.
Gibbs made three more birdies on his first four holes of the front nine, sandwiched around a bogey on the par-4 second hole, then finishing with five straight pars to card his 65. Playing at his place of employment, Gibbs said, added a little something extra to the day.
"I felt more pressure and was more nervous playing here than in any tournament in a long time," Gibbs said. "I had my wife following me and members following me. It's certainly different playing here. I just need to stay patient tomorrow and try not to press."
Also in a tie for second is Cole Berman, of Rosemont, Pa. and the Philadelphia Cricket Club. Berman, who plays golf at Georgetown University, had seven birdies and an eagle on his scorecard. He began his round with a bogey on No. 10 before a bounceback eagle on the par-5 12th hole. After another bogey on No. 14 to drop back to even par, Berman caught fire. He made three consecutive birdies to close out the back nine and then also birdied No. 2 and No. 4 to get to 5-under par. A hiccup on the par-3 sixth hole saw him drop a shot, but he came back with birdies on No. 7 and No. 8 to get his score to 6-under par.
David Denlinger, a professional from Lancaster, also came in at 65. He made just one bogey on the day, firing four birdies on the front nine and three more on the back side. Denlinger birdied the first hole to get into red numbers, and he would stay there the rest of the day. His only blemish came on the par-5 12th hole. After a birdie on the 18th, he joined the parade of players at 65.
Capping off the group at 6-under is Villanova resident Carey Bina. Despite bogeying the opening hole, Bina shot a blistering 30 on the front nine, as he carded three straight birdies on two separate occasions on that side. Bina first birdied the second through fourth holes, and after a par on No. 5, he pulled the same trick again, making birdie on No. 6, No. 7 and No. 8. On the back nine, Bina again opened with bogey but then birdied No. 12 and No. 14 to get to 6-under par, which is where he finished for the day.
Ingraham, the 1998 Pennsylvania Open champ, was playing in a tournament at Gulph Mills for the first time since that record-tying 63 nearly a decade ago. He is tied for seventh after shooting 66. Another past champ, 2015 winner Billy Stewart, matched Ingraham with 66. Also at that number is Hershey, Pa. professional David Hilgers.
Among the group of players at 67 (-4) is Temple University golfer Marty McGuckin, of Valley Forge, Pa. However, there was a point during the morning round where it appeared both McGuckin and Dornes had a chance to challenge the course record. McGuckin made six birdies on the front nine for a 29 at the turn, and was -7 after 13 holes. However, he hit a rough patch, bogeying four consecutive holes before bouncing back to birdie the 18th.
"You have to keep it where you have good looks at the hole, and I was fortunate to do that here for most of the day," McGuckin said.
Tied with McGuckin at -4 are amateur Ryan Rucinski and professionals John Pillar, Sr. (2014 Pennsylvania Open champion), Greg Jarmas, Daniel Konieczny and Cole willcox.
The low scores should certainly set up an exciting second round on Tuesday. Play will begin at 7:30 a.m. Spectators are welcome to attend.
The Pennsylvania Golf Association would like to thank the staff and membership of Gulph Mills Golf Club for their support and hospitality during the event.