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The best amateur golfers in the world are walking the fairways at Monroe Golf Club this week. The first round of the Monroe Invitational got underway Wednesday.
The Monroe Invitational Championship is offering its deepest field in years. A number of local players are competing, two names News10NBC has followed since their high school days at McQuaid and Penfield.
Penfield native Yaroslav Merkulov has played Monroe at least 50 times in his young career. Last year, he tied for 8th during his first Monroe Invitational. He’s hoping to do even better this week.
Merkulov said, “This course is helping me. The fairways are much wider and I’m getting away with a lot of shots here.”
Merkulov is happy to be home in familiar territory. The Duke junior is back working with local pros who have guided his career.
Merkulov said, “I came out and watched some of the best golfers in the world play and now to be one of those is pretty sweet.”
In the group behind Merkulov is his friend and competitor, McQuaid’s Dom Bozzelli, who just finished up his second year of playing at Auburn. He finished tied for 13th in the NCAA tournament and has his sights on going pro one day. Being able to compete in a tournament of this caliber is an important resume builder.
Bozzelli said, “You're playing against great competition every week so it only makes you better more experienced in tournaments. It's helping your game.”
This is Bozzelli’s third Monroe Invitational and he’s one of the few with a gallery; his mom, dad, grandparents, his cousin, his caddie.
Bozzelli said, “I wouldn't be here without them. They've dedicated a lot towards my golf career in time and support they've given me that through the years I wouldn't be here without them.”
After the first round, Bozzelli and Merkulov are both one over. The leader is David Denlinger from Charleston Southern University. He is 6 under. Trevor Sluman, Jeff’s Sluman’s nephew, is two under. Thomas Pieters from the University of Illinois, who is also the national champion, is also one over and Monroe’s Tim Spitz had a tough day, finishing seven over.