E.A. Sports Today

Still chasing the dream

Former Big Break winner Brandt leads by a shot after shooting 4-under 68

Jimmy Brandt talks about his round after shooting 68 Friday. On the cover, Brandt (R) talks about his putt on the 10th green with Jared Davis.

Jimmy Brandt talks about his round after shooting 68 Friday. On the cover, Brandt (R) talks about his putt on the 10th green with Jared Davis.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Two years after winning The Big Break in Myrtle Beach, Jimmy Brandt is still looking for the big break.

Winning the popular Golf Channel show doesn’t guarantee a fast-lane pass to the big time. It has gotten him into a PGA Tour event and afforded him other playing opportunities, but he’s still chasing the dream through events like the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational he leads after Friday’s opening round.

Brandt shot a 4-under-par 68 to lead the combined field of amateurs and pros by a shot. He’s always played well here, but has never won. The round Friday has gotten him off to a good start.

“I’m trying to get out there, honestly,” he said. “Just because I won the show I’m still searching for what it takes to get out there. It’s a hard game. It takes a lot of work. Still searching. I’m not going to give up just yet.

“I knew that that wasn’t my ticket to the PGA Tour. I knew I still had to work, but I figured that was going to provide me with a few more years of playing comfortably. I had a lot of great packages that came with it. I got my name out here. It was a great experience.”

Still, there are some parts of it he won’t or can’t talk about. Since winning the show his once consistent game has gotten “very inconsistent” and he the Auburn resident has been spending a lot of his off-course time searching for solutions.

He won his biggest prize since the show in March when he won the Emerald Coast Tour’s event at Dancing Rabbit.

He characterized his round Friday as “very consistent” and it could have been a few strokes lower if he had taken advantage of the par-5s; he birdied only one of them. He turned in 3-under and made his only bogey of the day on the par-3 12th. He came back across the street and birdied 14 and 17 to post the 68.

He leads fellow pros Jared Davis of Valdosta, Ga., and Neal Grusczynski of Milwaukee, Wis.; and Calhoun County Golf Tour amateurs Jeremy McGatha and Ty Cole.

“I think 18 holes out there with one bogey, that’s not bad,” he said.

KEEPING PACE: Valdosta pro Jared Davis didn’t let leader and playing partner Jimmy Brandt far out of his sight and at one time was the chasee.

Playing in just his third pro event in two months out here, Davis birdied three of his first five holes to grab the early lead and turned with a share of it.

He fell off the pace with back-to-back bogeys in The Hollow, but climbed back into contention when he hit a 3-wood to four feet for eagle on the par-5 14th. He bogeyed 16 and then birdied 18 to pull within a shot of Brandt.

“It did settle me in,” Davis said of the eagle. “I wasn’t making a whole lot of putts, but I wasn’t hitting it real close either. It was a good day. It was fun.”

Davis played two years of football at Valdosta State and then started working as an assistant at nearby Kinderlou Forest before deciding to strike out on his own. He finished top 10 in each of his previous two pro starts.

“I got tired of working 80 hours a week for nothing and you only get one shot to do it,” he explained. “It’s fun. I’m enjoying it.”

TRYING TO STAY SHARP: There aren’t many times a hungry golf pro looking for places to play gets a spot in a big-tour event and has to turn it down, but Glenn Northcutt has something a little more important to do.

Northcutt has some status on the Canadian Tour and has a spot in the event in two weeks, but that’s the weekend he’s getting married.

He’s playing this week to keep a competitive edge. With limited places to play he’s concerned about staying sharp. A prime example was on 18 Friday when he took his third shot from inside 100 yards and didn’t have the touch to hold the green.

It led to his only bogey of the day and kept him from joining the logjam at 69.

“That’s kind of what’s frustrating,” he said. “I told myself the one thing you don’t want to do is hit it too hard; you can make par if you leave it short all day.

“If I were playing every week on some tour I probably wouldn’t make that mistake It’s just real rusty right now. I’ve got to get back into competing and playing. There’s just not a whole lot to play in.”

BACK IN TOWN: Neal Grusczynski made the trip down from Wisconsin to play here this week and it’s setting up to be a nice trip.

Grusczynski, a former Jacksonville State assistant golf coach now running his own NAIA program in Milwaukee, is only one shot off the lead. He bogeyed his first two holes then birdied three of his next four and turned in even par. He birdied three of his final five.

“I like this course a lot, it’s really good for your game,” he said.

Grusczynski spent a year as JSU coach James Hobbs’ assistant before leaving to become an assistant at Army. He got the chance to run his own program and took Cardinal Stritch to the nationals in his first year.

His third-year men’s program finished 14th. The women’s team won had its conference medalist.

“We’re setting new expectations; it’s going really well,” he said.

FORT McCLELLAN CREDIT UNION PRO-INVITATIONAL
Professionals scoreboard

Jimmy Brandt, Auburn 33-35—68
Jared Davis, Valdosta, Ga. 33-36—69
Neal Grusczynski, Milwaukee 36-33—69
Glenn Northcutt, Dothan 35-35—70
Tol Dozier, Dothan 38-33—71
Jay McLuen, Atlanta 36-35—71
Kyle Sapp, Gardendale 34-38—72
Brent Witcher, Atlanta 37-35—72
Jordan Anderton, Birmingham 37-36—73
Clayton Gregory, Barlett, Tenn. 38-35—73
Alex Tull, Corinth, Miss. 40-34—74
Jared Smith, Hattiesburg, Miss. 37-37—74
Jaylon Ellison, Atlanta 39-37—76
Zack Lynch, Dothan 40-41—81

Jaylon Ellison (L) came home this week to make a bid at becoming the second player to win the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational as an amateur and a pro. (Photo by Sandra Howell)

Jaylon Ellison (L) came home this week to make a bid at becoming the second player to win the Fort McClellan Credit Union Pro-Invitational as an amateur and a pro. (Photo by Sandra Howell)



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