Brunner claims 36-hole lead at Evans Scholars Invitational
September 11, 2020
By Preston Smith, PGATOUR.COM
- September 11, 2020
- Brunner fired a 64 on Friday to take the lead in Westchester. (Mackenzie Perez/PGATOUR.COM)
WESTCHESTER, Ill. – Entering last week, Brad Brunner was struggling to get starts on the Korn Ferry Tour with just four made cuts and a high finish of T50 this season. Fast forward a week and the southpaw has collected a solo-ninth finish at the Lincoln Land Championship presented by LRS and now holds the 36-hole lead at the Evans Scholars Invitational. Brunner carded an 8-under 64 on Friday to reach 12-under for the tournament and take a one-stroke lead over Curtis Thompson at Chicago Highlands Club.
“I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities I have,” said Brunner, who began the year with conditional status after a T53 finish at the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament last fall. “I’ve never been able to play with this kind of status where I know I’m going to get some starts out here. Last week helps and I like where my heads at.”
Starting at the 10th hole, Brunner birdied four of his first five holes, dropped a shot at the 16th and eagled the 18th to turn in 5-under 31. The 32-year-old tacked on four more birdies – along with a bogey – on his second nine for a 64. The 64 ties the competitive course record at Chicago Highlands, set 10 minutes prior by Mito Pereira.
“I asked somebody what the course record was and I think they thought 65 was the record, so on nine I just thought let’s get this up and down for the record,” laughed Brunner. “And then I heard Mito shot a 64 right before me. But either way that was great.”
Brunner has had an adventurous path in pro golf thus far. After attending the University of North Florida, the Tampa native caddied for a while to make ends meet until he could pursue a pro golf career. He competed on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica in 2016 and 2017 followed by 12 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018. A T6 at the KC Golf Classic in 2018 marked his only career top-10 before last week.
Three weeks ago Brunner made an equipment change to all Callaway clubs but credited his recent surge as much to his mental approach as to his equipment.
“I’ve been just trying to get my head in the right place, just trying to be me,” said Brunner. “I went all Callaway a few weeks ago. I had been using their putters, but they’ve been treating me well and it’s been good… But a lot of it is getting my mental side of it in the right spot. But equipment is part of it and I trust it.”
Brunner leads former Louisiana State University golfer Curtis Thompson by one stroke entering the third round. Thompson began his day with a bogey at the 10th but rebounded with six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 12th for a 65 and a two-day total of 11-under.
“The hole was just bigger for our group today,” joked Thompson, whose group combined to go 20-under on Friday. “[Erik]Compton made eagle on the first hole and then another one on seven. And Mito [Pereira] made everything for the first nine holes out there…We were just kind of fueling off of each other.”
Thompson is the older brother to LPGA Tour star Lexi Thompson and the younger brother to fellow Korn Ferry Tour pro Nicholas Thompson. Curtis Thompson previously competed on the Korn Ferry Tour from 2015-18 and earned full status on Tour this season after earning co-medalist honors at the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.
Four players sit three shots off the lead at 9-under: Stephan Jaeger, Adam Svensson, Alex Chiarella and Chicago native Brad Hopfinger.
The tournament will continue with the third round on Saturday with tee times from approximately 7-9 a.m. off of the first and 10th tees.