The best caddy in Asia is trying to be the best caddy in Spokane.
So far, it looks good.
Tina Corbett Rustand is packing clubs for her husband Eric as he chases his dream halfway around the world.
But with a break in the Asian Tour, the Rustands returned to Tina’s hometown for a vacation - make that a working vacation - that gives every indication of becoming a paid vacation.
Rustand shot a 65 Thursday at The Fairways to trail Randy Bridge by one stroke after the first round of 37th annual Washington Trust Bank Lilac Invitational.
“It was pretty basic,” Rustand said of his 7-under par round. “I hit a lot of greens. I had two eagles and two three-putts, so I guess I got some and gave some away.”
Bridge, who plays out of Mission Hills near Palm Springs, had no bogeys or eagles while firing a 64.
Bob Rannow of Coeur d’Alene was two strokes back. Two-time champion Mark Rohde shot a 68. Defending champion Michael Combs had a 75 in the high winds of the afternoon. Two former champions, six-time winner Chris Mitchell and Gary Lindeblad, matched par.
There weren’t as many low scores as usual on opening day of the 72-hole tournament as the biting wind was as much as three clubs on occasion.
“I’m of the opinion it’s very difficult to follow a great opening round,” Rustand said. “Everybody that shoots a 63 or 64 finds it hard to follow because they expect to shoot so low again.”
Bridge started early when it was cool and parred the first three holes before warming up with three straight birdies.
“I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens,” he said. “You got good rolls on the greens, all you had to do was get it started at the hole.”
Bridge and a friend are headed for the Portland Invitational next week and were looking for a place to play.
“I heard a lot of guys talk about a good tournament in Spokane,” he said. “I called around here, found the number, got some information and here we are.”
Rustand three-putted from 20 feet for a par on No. 5. He made up for that on the backside par 5s. He hit a 9-iron to 6 feet on No. 12 and a wedge to 6 feet on No. 14.
“The thing here is all the par 5s are down wind or cross wind,” he said. “If you attack those, you can play them 4 or 5 under and then hang on. It’s a course that’s scorable.”
Rustand finished third in last year’s Lilac, two strokes behind Combs. He had a couple other good finishes before trying the PGA Qualifying School. He came up short and went off to qualify for both the Asian and the Australian tours.
So far he has stuck to the Asian Tour, hop-scotching from Thailand, where he finished third in the Thailand Open, to Indonesia, Korea, the Philippines, and Hong Kong for a vacation, among other places.
He was also able to take his wife along and she caddied in 11 events.
“She’s the best caddy in Asia, the best caddy in the world,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a very good tour. I want to play the PGA and Asia is giving me good experience.”
His wife said, “We’re experiencing all the new, different things and we’re doing them together. Not a lot of couples get to experience the things we’ve done.”
She vividly recalls playing a tournament in Korea after the Demilitarized Zone was violated. The course, just 10 kilometers from the DMZ, had bunkers air raid bunkers - on the ninth and 19th holes and military helicopters buzzing around.
With a break in the Asian Tour, Rustand was ready to come back for the Lilac.
“I left last year a little disappointed,” he said. “I didn’t put a charge on. I didn’t have a low round, I had four good rounds (68-69-68-68). When you come close it makes you want to come back and do better.”
His wife also landed work with the Asian Tour, putting her communications degree from BYU to good use. There’s just one problem: “He has to find a new caddy.”
But that can wait a couple weeks.
John Durgan, The Fairways golf operations director, won the pro-am with Bob Worden and Dave MacLaskey at 14-under 58. … John’s father, Joe Durgan, one of the founders of the tournament, is in the hospital recovering from a stroke. The family hopes to bring him out on Saturday. He calls several times a day for tournament updates. … Todd Pence, an employee of The Fairways, made his professional debut with a 69. “It’s not a bad start,” the three-time Lilac low amateur said. “I didn’t feel different as a pro but I do feel a little pressure … people are expecting things from me.” … Official prize money has been figured, the top 28 pros get paid and the winner receives $6,000.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LEADERBOARD Leaders after the first round of the 72-hole Washington Trust Bank Lilac Invitational at the par-72, 6,398-yard The Fairways: Randy Bridge 64 Eric Rustand 65 Bob Rannow 66 Bryan Hepler 67 Ron Ewing 67 Mark Rohde 68 Daniel Jarvie 68 Todd Pence 69 Mark Olson 69
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