published Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Brainerd knowledge, 'luck' help Mike Dunn grab golf lead

Mike Dunn knows his way around Brainerd Golf Course.

After all, the 32-year-old works in the pro shop there and plays three or four times a week from the member tees in casual rounds and shoots around par.

He moved back one set of tees Saturday, but his experience -- and a little luck -- helped him take the first-round lead of the Brainerd Invitational tournament.

Dunn shot a 5-under-par 67 and has a one-stroke lead on Matt Robertson, who shot a bogey-free 68. Hunter Vest, Gordon Hulgan and Neil Spitalny are two shots back with Jay Potter, Chase Deck, Ben Vaughn, Chris Hall and 2009 champion Walt Moffitt all three shots from the lead.

"That was complete luck," said Dunn, who made six birdies and a bogey. "I just kept it in play, made zero mistakes and got two lucky breaks.

"I hit a 3-wood on No. 1 to avoid the ravine, and my ball is in the middle of the bridge. Then on No. 3 I snapped it so far that it should have been in the neighborhood, but it hit a tree and dropped down."

Those are called "member bounces."

Bounces will take different turns during the Brainerd Invitational next year.

The course will have Mini-Verde Bermuda greens and will be contested later in the year -- July or August -- to accommodate the greens and increase grass growth around the greens and in the fairways.

It's a big change from the hard bentgrass the 115-man field played Saturday. But it will be a change for the better, according to tournament officials and participants.

"The whole course will be in better shape and the greens should be perfect by July or August," Hall said. "It will be a lot more challenging."

The change in greens will affect play this summer at Brainerd, Council Fire and the back nine at Creeks Bend -- resulting in an unknown shift in the Chattanooga TPC schedule for next year.

"I think it will make this tournament better because it will be later, fairways will be grown in and greens will be good," said Brainerd Invitational co-director Richard Keene. "This tournament used to be later in the year, and the reason we changed to April or May is for the bentgrass greens."

Dunn, a former professional who regained his amateur status in January, would take just one more great round on the current greens this year if that round comes today.

"When I started here after high school I couldn't break 120," Dunn said. "I'm self-taught and picked up a few things here and there. I guess I'm the local Bubba Watson who bunts it.

"Oh, I was supposed to start work at noon."

His schedule has been altered to accommodate his participation.

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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