GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Australian Cameron Percy blistered the Thornblade Club on Friday, firing a 9-under-par 62 to take a two-shot lead at the halfway point of the BMW Charity Pro-Am on the Nationwide Tour. Seeking his first Nationwide Tour win, the 38-year-old reeled off nine birdies between the fifth and 17th hole. Four of them came in succession on holes 14 through 17. His 36-hole aggregate of 130 is 13 under par.
First-round leader Darron Stiles followed up Thursday’s 64 with a 68 at Thornblade. He was joined at 11 under by Reid Estrom, who bettered his first-round 67 by one shot at Carolina Country Club, and Aaron Watkins. Also playing at Carolina, Watkins posted birdies on five of his last seven holes, including the final three.
The unique Nationwide Tour event features 168 professionals and celebrities in a better-ball format hosted by the Thornblade Club and Greenville Country Club/Chanticleer Course in Greenville and the Carolina Country Club in nearby Spartanburg. Play resumes Saturday at all three clubs with the professional cut to the low 60 and ties coming after 54 holes. The low 14 celebrity/amateur teams will also advance to play their final rounds on Sunday at Thornblade along with the professionals.
“It was about as good as I can hit it,” Percy said. “I missed a few putts early or else it could have been something crazy. It was just one of those days where I seemed to have the perfect yardage all day. Every number was perfect. That’s how you shoot 9 under.
“I like it,” Percy said when asked about the unique tournament format. “We’ve got two good guys we’re playing with. They’re interesting to talk to. The rounds take a little longer but it’s good. I get a lot out of it. I’m enjoying myself.”
First-round leader Stiles commented on the difference between course conditions Thursday, when he played the rain-soaked Carolina Country Club, and Friday.
“The ball actually bounced in the fairways, so it was a little bit of an adjustment with the greens,” he said. “Yesterday everything was sticking. Today you had to play for a little bit of a release, so it was an adjustment. I didn’t hit it quite as well. I drove it awful on the par 5s.”
Like Percy, Watkins is after his first Nationwide Tour win. The 2004 Kansas State University graduate expressed confidence in his chances.
“Tomorrow I’ve just got to keep doing the same things I’m doing,” he said. “I’m putting well this week. The best I have all year. So, if I can just keep giving myself looks, I think I have a pretty good shot.”
Edstrom has only one top-10 finish (tie for seventh in 2008) in his abbreviated Nationwide Tour career. The Auburn University-educated Hoosier said after his round, “It’s a little different at this event because you don’t know how you stand until after three days. Everybody has to play the same golf courses. So I’m just going to take it shot for shot, round for round, and see what happens.”
Percy’s 62 is one off the Thornblade Club tournament course record set by Keegan Bradley in 2010, also posted in the second round. It ties his career low, which came in the third round of the 2010 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on the PGA Tour. Percy would go on to lose in a playoff to Jonathan Byrd.
A resident of Raleigh, N.C., Percy has had four runners-up on the Nationwide Tour in 95 starts dating back to 2003, including this year’s Panama Claro Championship. He spent all of 2010 on the PGA Tour. His international resume includes five wins between 1997 and 2006 on the Australasian Tour. Percy is currently 19th in Tour earnings this year.
The Aussie admitted to missing his homeland.
“I’m always homesick,” he said. “It’s right in the middle of football season back home and we haven’t seen our family and friends for several months now. We’ve got three boys now and my wife is at home with the three kids in Raleigh. We spend about 11 months a year here and then one month there for Christmas.”
The only other time Percy held a 36-hole Nationwide Tour lead was at the 2010 Melwood Prince George’s County (Md.) Open. He finished seventh that week after also holding a two-shot lead.
“I’ve got to play the hard course tomorrow (Chanticleer),” the leader said. “Everyone says there are no easy pins and there’s a lot of water and out of bounds, so you’ve got to keep your head.”
Three-time PGA Tour winner Gene Sauers is a nice story thus far this week. The Savannah, Ga. native has battled Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a rare and potentially fatal skin disorder, since 2009. He finished 9 under, along with three others and is in sixth place. The 49-year-old plans to make his Champions Tour debut in August.
Leading the celebrity/amateur portion of the tournament is Roger Tambellini and his amateur partner Todd Yates, who stand 23 under. They lead 2009 BMW Charity Pro-Am playoff runner-up Fabian Gomez and Brian Todd by three shots.
--The cut this week will come after 54 holes vs. the usual 36 holes. The low 60 professionals and ties will play their final round at Thornblade Club. The low 14 celebrity/am teams will play on Sunday at Thornblade also.
--Former Clemson University golf team member and 2007 South Carolina Amateur champion Luke Hopkins of Greer, S.C. played as a non-competing marker at Chanticleer Friday in place of Glen Day, who withdrew Thursday.
--James Hahn registered back-to-back eagles on the back nine at the Thornblade Club. He eagled Nos. 15 (20 feet) and 16 (10 feet) to join Will MacKenzie (2011) as the only players in tournament history to record consecutive eagles. He also becomes the second player on Tour this year to post back-to-back eagles. Reid Edstrom did it at the Soboba Golf Classic.
--Cameron Percy leads by two after 36 holes. The tournament record is three strokes by Chris Smith in 1997.
--Thursday’s birthday boy, Jason Gore, certainly turned things around Friday at Carolina Country Club. Gore, who turned 38, made eight birdies and only one bogey (last hole) Friday to shoot 65. He shot 75 Thursday in a round that included a triple bogey and a double bogey at Chanticleer. Gore moved up to a tie for 36th. “I think before I would have just taken yesterday and said ‘oh, it’s going to be a bad week’. Maybe that birthday helped with my maturity.”