WESTCHESTER, Ill. – Trey Mullinax birdied four of his last six holes on Thursday to claim the 18-hole lead at 6-under 66 at the Evans Scholars Invitational. The University of Alabama alum leads four players by one stroke at Chicago Highlands Club. Play was suspended due to darkness with two groups remaining on the course.

“I enjoy this type of course because it’s different than what we normally play,” said Mullinax of the links-style course. “I think by this weekend if we don’t get any rain then it will be firm and fast…You have to keep it below the hole out here. We’re not going to have a day where it doesn’t blow, so you have to be below it.”

After making the turn at 2-under, Mullinax found the water at the par-5 12th but managed to save par. He capitalized on the momentum with a birdie at the 13th, the second-toughest hole on the course on Thursday, and added three more coming in at the 15th, 16th and 18th.

“I made a long putt at the 13th, the par 3; it was playing like 240 into the wind and I think I hit a 7-wood,” said Mullinax. “I made about a 40-footer for birdie there, so that kind of kickstarted me.”

Mullinax has had an up-and-down couple of years, including a freak injury when a Pro-Am partner hit him with an errant shot at the Charles Schwab Challenge last summer. Between the ensuing concussion, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the 28-year-old has struggled to find a rhythm. He is coming off his best finish in over two years after a backdoor top-10 at last week’s Lincoln Land Championship presented by LRS.

“It’s just been a while since I’ve been in competition,” said Mullinax, champion of the 2016 REX Hospital Open. “With the injury last year, I didn’t get to play a lot, and then COVID hit, so everybody has just been in la-la land. Last week was a really encouraging week for me because I’ve been working hard. To see some results come from that was nice.”

Lately Mullinax has been working with Todd Anderson on getting back to some of the fundamentals, specifically referencing an improved approach with the putter. In windy conditions on Thursday, he saw immediate results while going four for four in scrambling with 27 total putts.

Mullinax leads four players by a single stroke, including Brian Richey, who carded an ace at the par-3 17th on Thursday. Richey joins Brady Schnell, Blayne Barber and Alex Chiarella at 5-under 67.

The tournament will continue with the second round on Friday with tee times from 6:40 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. off of the first and 10th tees.

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