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Russell Grove hoping to write different ending at 2018 Rosauers Open

UPDATED: Wed., July 11, 2018

Russell Grove of North Idaho College is two shots back after the first round of the  Rosauers Open Invitational at Indian Canyon Golf Course. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Russell Grove of North Idaho College is two shots back after the first round of the Rosauers Open Invitational at Indian Canyon Golf Course. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The 2017 Rosauers Open Invitational probably couldn’t have ended much better or worse for Russell Grove.

The North Idaho College golf coach walked off the 18th green after making his sixth birdie in seven holes for an apparent two-stroke win. Minutes later, however, carts ferried Grove, playing partners Derek Berg and Jason Molner and their caddies back to No. 6, where it was determined Grove had violated a rule by improving his lie, area of intended stance or swing or line of play, apparently by moving a live branch.

Grove was assessed a two-shot penalty and lost a playoff to Brady Sharp. One year later, Grove still doesn’t believe he knowingly did anything wrong, but there’s no disputing he handled a difficult situation about as well as possible.

“I’ve been asked that (if he did anything wrong) many times,” Grove said. “When I was taking my stance and all that, I don’t really remember exactly what I did, but in my mind I didn’t do anything that broke the rules of golf.”

The 2018 Rosauers begins a three-day run Friday at Indian Canyon with Grove among the favorites in a field packed with past champions, including Spokane’s Corey Prugh (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015), Tim Feenstra (2014), David Phay (2012), Kyle Kelly (2010), Jeff Coston (1997, 2006, 2008), Ryan Benzel (2005) and Rob Gibbons (1991).

Former Washington State Cougar Derek Bayley, who fired a 59 at MeadowWood en route to a runaway victory in 2016, will play in the Rosauers if he’s eliminated during match play Thursday in the Pacific Northwest Amateur.

Grove said he’s moved on from last year’s tournament. He eventually won the Pacific Northwest PGA section player of the year.

“Honestly, I feel like my friends and family, it stuck with them longer than me,” he said. “It’s golf, it’s not the end of the world and there are still more important things out there.”

Grove has taken two things forward from last year’s Rosauers. One, if there’s any doubt in his mind about an on-course situation, he calls in a rules official to make sure “there’s no dispute about anything.”

Two, he gained confidence from his near flawless golf over those final seven holes.

“I know I can make a move like that coming down the stretch,” he said.

Grove hasn’t been at the top of his game this season, but he took third at the Oregon Open, which joins the Washington Open, Northwest Open and Rosauers as Northwest section majors.

Grove hasn’t been as consistent after making an equipment change in search of added distance. He had a mistake-free round at last week’s Lilac City Invitational that had low 60s potential, but couldn’t capitalize on the greens.

“When you get to this level, it literally takes one silly thought to go from 75 to 63,” he said. “I feel like I have the ability to shoot low.”

Low scores are a requirement at the Rosauers, which always boasts a talented field.

“Usually, it’s all the top guys from the Northwest and with this being the biggest purse ($135,000) we play for, there’s definitely more depth to the field,” Grove said. “Corey (Prugh) is always tough. He plays the Canyon well. Golf is a weird sport, you never know. There are probably 25 guys that could win it.”

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