ST. ALBANS, MO. — Returning to a place where he's had previous success, Edwardsville native Chris Brant went low once again Thursday at St. Albans Country Club.
A former standout at Edwardsville High School, who went on to a solid four year career at the University of Iowa, Brant fired a 3-under-par 67 and is a shot out of the lead after the first round of the ninth annual Metropolitan Open Golf Championship.
Brant made the nine-hole turn in four-under 31, then followed with a 36 to finish with his 3-under total and is tied for second with St. Louis player Alex Cusumano.
Both trail St. Louis area player Barrett Mertens.
Playing out of Glen Echo Country Club in Normandy, Mo., Mertens made a birdie on a No. 8 -- his 17th hole of the day -- to finish with a 4-under 66.
But Brant, playing his usual steady style, likes the way he played.
"I like this golf course and have had success in this tournament in the past. I look forward to continuing to play well here. I put myself in a good position with a solid round today,'' Brant said. "I hit it close a few times and was able to make some putts. Like I said, it was a good start.''
Three players -- Barrett Kelpin, Zecheriah Potter and Chad Saldin -- shot 68s, while six players, including Jace Long, are at 1-under 69.
A total of 144 players -- which included over 50 professionals -- competed.
First prize in the professional division is $15,000.
Following today's second round, the field will be cut to the low 40 players who will return for the final round Saturday.
Among the players at even-par 70 was former Gibault and Kansas State University player Mitchell Gregson.
The 2012 tournament champion, when he finished with a tournament record 13-under par 197 for 54 holes, Gregson called his round at St. Albans a roller-coaster ride.
"I hit a lot of good shots and had it going pretty good on the first nine, then I gave some shots back on the back nine,'' Gregson said. "I have a lot of good memories out here. St. Albans is a place where you need to hit it long and straight. There are some places where you have to make birdies and I did that today.''
After playing on various mini tours since graduating from Kansas State, Gregson is in his first season as a member of the Latin America PGA Tour.
Gregson has played tour stops in six different countries and has made the 36-hole cut in more than half of the events he has played.
The tour is on break and resumes for three months beginning in September.
"I'm really enjoying myself and playing pretty well so far this year. The tour likes to see scores under par and I've been able to do that,'' Gregson said. "I've had the opportunity to play at a lot of different countries and played some different courses.
"The big difference is the travel. I flew a lot in college, when we played different tournaments, but the last couple of years, it's been by car. It's taken some time to get use to flying a lot again.''
Belleville native Phil Caravia and former champion Skip Berkmeyer shot rounds of 72.
Among the other local players shooting solid rounds were former Mater Dei standout Parker Lawrence (73), Waterloo graduates Collin Neeman and Wils Hawn both shot 74. Matt Rau, playing out of Tamarack Country Club in Shiloh, shot a 75.
Long one of the top amateurs in the area, Torrey Welsch checked in with a 76.