Web.com Tour player Kent Bulle enjoys being 'thrown into the fire' at Open

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Web.com Tour player Kent Bulle enjoys being 'thrown into the fire' at Open

Professional

Web.com Tour player Kent Bulle enjoys being 'thrown into the fire' at Open

SOUTHPORT, England – At the 146th British Open, the thousands of Brits who lined the fairways of Royal Birkdale had a lad from Glasgow to rally behind. One catch: Kent Bulle hails from Glasgow, Ky. Hey, at least his high school mascot was a Scottie.

Bulle, a stocky, well-mannered 28-year-old, has spent this season on the Web.com Tour, on which he entered the week 96th in earnings. As his mates at home were competing in Elkhorn, Neb., Bulle earned a week on England’s Lancashire Coast courtesy of winning his second Argentina Open in November.

You only get to play your first British Open once, and Bulle had a ball, even if it was a significant adjustment for a man more attuned to showing up to stops such as the United Leasing & Finance and Rust-Oleum championships back at home.

He played pretty solidly in his debut, opening with a 2-under 68 and battling to a hard-earned 72 on Day 2, when Birkdale was nothing short of ferocious. It placed Bulle in good stead for the weekend (T-10), teeing off among the last groups late Saturday afternoon.

That’s when the magnitude of where he was, and the size of the stage, hit him.

“I was kind of thrown into the fire a little bit,” Bulle said. “I was expecting it to be wild out there, but it was a lot more than I’d ever seen. I kept telling Chas (his caddie, buddy Chas Narramore, a fellow Web.com player) that I’ve got to get my focus. I’m seeing a lot of things I usually don’t see. Everything. The crowds. You hear noise everywhere. There was a buzz – and it was cool – but I just didn’t focus as well as I should have.”

He’d shoot 74-76 on the weekend – when scoring conditions were prime – and fall well back. At 10-over 290, Bulle finished 77th out of 77 players who made the cut. But that’s not to say the experience wasn’t enriching. There was a lot to take home.

“I was telling Chas (pronounced Chase), we’re not at a Web.com event anymore,” Bulle said, a bright smile creasing his face. “Walking up 18 … man, that was really fun. That was a cool deal there. The first seven or eight greens, they’re just cheering as you’re walking up. That kind of caught me off-guard a little bit. That doesn’t happen when we play.”

Instead of playing the week prior at home and scrambling to get overseas, where it could take a few days to get his legs beneath him, Bulle traveled to Ireland’s storied Ballybunion across the sea to prepare for links golf. Whereas he practiced and played too much when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Oakmont last summer, he paced himself this time, playing nine holes a couple of days.

His practice pairings were highlight-worthy. Bulle teed it up with fellow Kentuckian Justin Thomas and U.S. Ryder Cup players Brandt Snedeker (who lives in Nashville, also where Bulle lives) and Jimmy Walker. When Snedeker dropped out one day, another American joined up: World No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

“I got up there (in distance) with him a couple times,” Bulle said proudly, referring to the long-hitting Johnson.

When it comes to distance, Bulle is no wallflower. He can bang it long, too. (Bulle averaged 312 yards off the tee at Birkdale, which ranked fourth.)

Birkdale allowed Bulle the chance to work on flighting his ball, and he always has been able to chip and putt, though he had a difficult time adjusting to slower greens. At Oakmont he was in awe and happy just to get to the tournament. At Birkdale he wanted to compete, to play on the weekend. He did that.

“I’d never been in this situation, and neither had he,” said Narramore, Bulle’s former teammate at Middle Tennessee, “so it was good, really good. When he got to 4 or 5 over early on Saturday, your first Open, you could shoot anything, and he fought hard. The noise, the atmosphere, everything about this tournament … it’s totally different. He’ll be better for it.”

Bulle’s play through two days allowed him to dream big, thinking of a high finish that might change his standing in the game.

“I think everybody in our position is looking for that chance,” Bulle said after posting level-par 140 through two rounds, six off Jordan Spieth’s lead. “If you hang around long enough you all get that one chance. It’s a matter of you take that chance and you play well, or you don’t. This may be my chance.”

Suffice to say, Bulle was the only player leaving England for Kansas and the Web.com’s Digital Ally Open. But he departed with renewed confidence that he has the talent to do something in this game.

That’s a nice bow to tie around a week in England that he never will forget.

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