Even though he had just polished off a second-round 63 that followed a 7-under 64 in the first round, Roberto Castro was quick to point out that “It’s always hard to back up a low number with another low number.”
You wouldn’t know that by watching Castro on Friday. The Georgia Tech graduate, who earned a spot in the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open this week after having a top-25 finish at last week’s Cox Classic, played his second consecutive bogey-free round at Crestview Country Club and enters Saturday’s third round with a two-shot lead over Steven Bowditch and Scott Gutschewski. Dan Buchner and first-round leader Matt Davidson are tied for fourth.
In limited Nationwide Tour action this season, Castro seems to play better each week. He tied for 54th in April at the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae in California’s Bay Area and tied for 19th last week in Omaha after getting into that tournament as a Monday qualifier. In between, he’s been toiling on the eGolf Professional Tour, where he won the Savannah Quarters Classic in Georgia in February. Castro is third on the eGolf Tour money list, with a little more than $64,000 in earnings.
In three seasons on that Tour, Castro has won four tournaments, while also squeezing in Nationwide Tour events when he qualified. In 2009, Castro played in five Nationwide Tour events, with a tie for sixth at the Chattanooga Classic his best-career performance, again after he Monday-qualified.
“The nice, cool thing about the Nationwide Tour is Mondaying into tournaments,” said Castro, making up words as he went. “But it’s not easy to do.”
After the 64 Thursday at the par-71 Crestview Country Club, Castro hoped to get off to another quick start in the second round. Yet four consecutive pars to start his round Friday seemed to derail that plan -- even though he had birdie putts on each hole. Castro jumpstarted his round on his fifth hole of the day, the par-5 14th.
“I hit an 8-iron to about 10 feet, but I had a weird lie against the collar,” he said about the hole he eventually birdied. “That 10-footer for birdie helped a lot and seemed to take the lid off and got me rolling.”
Castro made a 5-footer for birdie on the next hole and made birdie on his seventh hole (the 16th) and another on his ninth. Suddenly he was 3 under for the day and 10 under for the tournament. Four birdies on his final nine made for a nice bookend to the four birdies on his first nine holes.
Davidson likes his position heading into the weekend. “I look at this round separately than [Thursday’s],” he said of his 4-under 67. “I didn’t drive the ball as well and didn’t have as many chances. It’s still early, and we’re only halfway there. There’s a long way to go.”
Castro’s success this week shouldn’t be surprising. The native of Alpharetta, Ga., had a celebrated amateur career at Georgia Tech. He won the 2007 Byron Nelson Award that honors that honors the top senior college golfer, earned All-American honors and was a two-time U.S. Palmer Cup member. He also has good bloodlines. Although his father doesn’t play golf, both his uncles -- Percy and Alex Lidback -- played collegiately at LSU, and his aunt, Jenny Lidback, was a 15-year LPGA Tour veteran who won the 1989 du Maurier Ltd. Classic, at the time an LPGA major.
As he takes his lead into the third round, Castro knows what he’s up against.
“All you have to do is look at the scores,” Castro said. “You have to be really good to play out here.”
Second-Round Notes: Steven Bowditch has enjoyed seven consecutive under-par Nationwide Tour rounds. He shot a final-round 68 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational two weeks ago, shot rounds of 63-67-70-70 last week at the Cox Classic and opened with rounds of 64-65 in Wichita. … After 19 bogey-free rounds Thursday, there were 15 players without bogeys in the second round. They came from Ryan Armour, Roberto Castro, Gavin Coles, Todd Fischer, Scott Gutschewski, Justin Hicks, Jesse Hutchins, Colt Knost, Luke List, Rob Oppenheim, Garrett Osborn, Jin Park, David Robinson, Kyle Thompson and Tjaart van der Walt. Of that group, Castro, Gutschewski and van der Walt are the only ones without bogeys this week.
The cut came at 5 under, which ties the tournament record for the highest cut score in the event’s 21-year history. Sixty-nine players will play on the weekend. Five-under was also the cut number in 2007. … Five players shot 63 Friday. That marked a first in Wichita Open history when that many players had rounds of 63. The players were Roberto Castro, Luke List, Jin Park, Brian Smock and Nathan Tyler. … Brian Smock tied the tournament’s nine-hole record when he recorded the eighth 29 in tournament history Friday. He had five birdies and an eagle on Crestview Country Club’s back nine on his way to a 63.
There were three hole-out eagles on par-4 holes at Crestview CC Friday after Oskar Bergman’s eagle on No. 7 in the first round. Brendan Gielow made his eagle at the 428-yard No. 10, Chris Kamin had eagle on the short, 339-yard 11th hole and Leif Olson matched Bergman by doing it at the 456-yard seventh.