Pearson, Schill in front early at FD Am

Familiarity was a factor on day one of the 65th annual Fort Dodge Amateur here Friday.

Well-known local golfers Colin Pearson, Cory Braunschweig and Tanner Kesterson found an early comfort zone on their old stomping grounds, as the trio gained a leg up on the rest of the field during a hot, breezy opening round that saw scores soar with the temperatures at the Fort Dodge Country Club.

Pearson and Braunschweig – both Fort Dodge Senior High graduates – carded rounds of 67 and 69, respectively, to top the leaderboard. Kesterson, the defending FD Am champion who lives next to the course during the summer months, was right behind at one-under 70.

No other player in the field managed to break par, though FDSH grad Ryan Kinseth fired a 71 and sits alone in fourth place.

Gowrie’s Tom Schill – again, no stranger to the FDCC and its slippery greens – moved ahead of the senior division pack with a one-over 72.

Pearson, the two-time defending city tournament winner who is currently on the Indian Hills golf team, made five birdies and an eagle to get his weekend moving in the right direction. Pearson was the only frontrunner to tee off during the morning session, when the winds and the heat weren’t quite as much of a factor.

”I made a lot of putts,” Pearson said. ”It was definitely windy and a challenge to keep the ball in the fairway, which I didn’t do a very good job of on a lot of holes.

”When you are putting well, though, that makes all the difference in the world. I definitely think there is a home-course advantage for those of us who grew up playing (the FDCC) – especially on days like this, when the greens are dried out and really rolling fast. There is a comfort level when the course plays tough like this that works in our favor.”

Pearson birdied holes 5, 6, 10, 12 and 16, adding an eagle at the down-wind par-five 15th. He bogeyed 11, 14 and 17, saying ”it was kind of an adventure.”

”I did a lot of scrambling, but my putter pulled me through,” Pearson said.

Braunschweig, the 1995 and ’96 FD Am champ, birdied 4, 7, 8 and 15, with bogeys on 6 and 10. The former Iowa State and Drake golfer currently lives in Urbandale.

Kesterson, who just finished his sophomore season at Oklahoma State University, called Friday a ”true grind.” He birdied holes 5, 7, 10 and 15, with bogeys at 1, 13 and 18.

”I played well, but just didn’t get enough putts to drop,” Kesterson said. ”(The conditions) are a challenge. I love it. I like the idea that something around par could win the tournament.”

Kesterson, who is originally from Plano, Tex., has extended family in the area and a summer home at the FDCC. He lives there with his family for nearly two months.

”I love being back here. This is my favorite course in the whole country to practice at,” Kesterson said. ”Seeing family and friends in Fort Dodge – it really means a lot to me.

”I’m not sure I’ve ever seen (the FDCC) play this difficult.”

Kinseth, an ex-Dodger and former city tourney winner like Pearson and Braunschweig, is a single stroke ahead of a cluster at one-over 72 that includes 1994 FDSH grad Jeff Peterson and Andrew Huseman, an Ankeny standout and the son of local businessman Bill Huseman.

Schill, the 2009 FD Am senior title holder, sits one shot clear of defending champ Joel Yunek (73) and Joe Palmer (73). Algona’s Bill Manske is tied for fourth (74).

The 130 tournament participants reverse tee times by five hours today; Friday’s afternoon golfers start in the morning, and vice versa. The top 36 players – with ties – advance to the championship flight Sunday on the open side, with the 16 seniors making the cut for tomorrow.

Temperatures are expected to reach the 90s again on Saturday, with the heat index pushing 100 and south winds again gusting over 20 miles per hour.