by Gary Baines
Its been a huge summer for University of Denver golf alumni. C.J. Kim won the Colorado Public Links Championship in June and last weekend Patrick McCrudden won the North of Ireland Match Play Championship. Yesterday, Alum Charlie Soule shot a 65 to take the first round lead of the Colorado Open.
Soule estimates he`s played 200 rounds at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club, but none has been as good -- or as opportune -- as Thursday`s.
The Longmont High School graduate calls GVR his home course, and he does some instruction work there, as well as at Twin Peaks and Ute Creek golf courses in Longmont.
Soule put his local knowledge to good use Thursday as he shot a 6-under-par 65 and gained the lead outright after the first round of the HealthOne Colorado Open.
"This is one of the best rounds of golf I think I`ve played," Soule said following an afternoon that featured plenty of wind. "There were a few little mistakes in the beginning -- some missed short putts -- but overall I`ve shot 10 under (par) before and this felt just as good. Tee to green was solid and the putter started working after nine holes. It just caught fire."
Particularly impressive was a back nine where Soule carded a 5-under 30 while battling stiff winds. Overall, he posted eight birdies.
Soule finished the first round with a one-stroke advantage over fellow pros Nick Mason of Denver and James Drew of Las Vegas, Nev. On a day when 36 players shot under par, seven golfers trail by two, including defending champion Nathan Lashley of Scottsdale, Ariz., and former University of Colorado golfer Scott Petersen, the 2000 Colorado Open champion who bogeyed his final hole.
Soule is no stranger to strong showings in the Colorado Open, having placed fourth in 2005 -- when he was the low amateur -- and eighth in 2008. But even in those years, he never shot a 65.
But seeing how familiar he`s gotten with Green Valley Ranch, he`s become even more comfortable competing there.
"It`s like perfect" for me, said the 27-year-old. "The greens are in great shape and you`ve got to hit just about every club in your bag. And I`ve been striking the ball pretty well for a while. It`s my home course. What can you say?"
Ironically, as Soule has been competing less, he seems to be performing better. He`s putting more time and emphasis on doing golf instruction and, barring qualifying for the PGA Tour in the fall, that will likely continue.
"I`ve been relaxed and enjoying myself and it`s paid dividends on the golf course," he said. "I`m not putting so much pressure on, training every day as hard as I used to, and every shot caring so much as I used to. Now it`s a little more relaxed and kind of fun. And I`ve started coming up with these rounds that seem like they`re great but I`m just out having fun."