UI Open: Meinhart leads the pack at halfway point

UI Open: Meinhart leads the pack at halfway point

SAVOY — Derek Meinhart has played competitive golf for quite some time, dating back to his high school days in Mattoon.

Then he moved on to a college career at Eastern Illinois University before returning home to help his parents with the family business.

A business, Innovative Staff Solutions, that Meinhart now leads.

And now, Meinhart leads the 64th University of Illinois Open after Saturday's first round.

"I run the business from day to day," Meinhart said, "and try to play golf whenever I can."

Meinhart has put himself in solid position to become a two-time UI Open champion after shooting a 2-under par 70 on Saturday at the UI Orange Course in Savoy. He leads Jay Scott, who won the UI Open in 1994 and 2002, by one stroke after Scott posted a 1-under 71. Tyler Woods and David Keenan — who won last year's UI Open — are two shots back after each carded a 72. Meinhart, Scott and Keenan will all tee off at 11 a.m. today in the final group.

Despite holding the lead after the first day, Meinhart, the 2011 UI Open champion, said his score didn't truly reflect how he played.

"I just need to clean up a couple of mistakes I made," Meinhart said. "I had a couple of three-putts."

Like Meinhart, former Illini Scott said he felt he has room to improve before today's final 18 holes.

"I had a couple of bad shots early in the round," Scott said. "But I also managed to catch a couple breaks and steady myself out."

Scott said his strength lies in his short game and course management.

"I can't hit it as far as some of these kids," Scott said. "So I need to play smarter. You have to make sure that you leave yourself below the hole. Because if you get in the wrong spot out here, you can make double, triple (bogey) pretty easy."

Former Urbana graduate CG Facer came in with a solid 73. Chris Tate, a former St. Thomas More standout who just wrapped up his sophomore season at Parkland College, and Zack Thorson both shot 74 on Saturday.

Keenan will try to become the first repeat champion at the UI Open since Tim Hoss Jr. won three straight titles from 2005 to 2007. The former Salt Fork and Parkland product, who finished up his college career at Chicago State, said he'll likely focus on playing more aggressive today if he wants to make up his two-shot deficit.

"I need to keep taking chances at birdies when I get them," he said, "and then, hopefully, convert some of those."

Sections (3):Illini Sports, Golf, Sports
Topics (1):People

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