Scott of Ohio grabs slim 36-hole lead at PGA Assistant Championship

Frank Bensel at the PGA Assistant Championship
Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America
Defending champion Frank Bensel finds himself with some work to do over the weekend if he hopes to repeat.
By
Randy Stutzman
The PGA of America

Series: PGA Feature

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Championship rookie Jake Scott of Strongsville, Ohio, grabbed the 36-hole lead Friday at the 36th National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship presented by COBRA PUMA GOLF, posting a second-round, 7-under-par 65 for a 134 total. He has a one-stroke lead over first-round leader Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Neb., who shot a 69 in the second round for a 135 total.

Zach Johnson of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Richard Terga of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., are tied for third at 138, four strokes back of Scott.

NATIONAL CAR RENTAL PGA ASSISTANT CHAMPIONSHIP

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Following Friday's play, the field was reduced to the low 70 scorers and ties, with 72 players making the cut at 6-over-par 150.

After opening with a 69 on Thursday, Scott, a PGA apprentice at Elyria (Ohio) Country Club, reeled off four birdies and an eagle en route to a spectacular front-nine 31.

"I got off to a hot start today with an eagle on the first hole. You can't get much better than that," said Scott, 25. "Then I birdied the second and was feeling really, really good."

Scott, who had never played the 6,947-yard Wanamaker Course layout until a Tuesday practice round, completed the back nine in 2 under par and was extremely pleased with his overall play through 36 holes.

"After playing so well on the front, I put the ball in places on the back nine where I could get up and down for par," said Scott. "I have hit lots of fairways and greens over these first few days and hopefully that can continue into the weekend."

Vermeer, a PGA apprentice at Oak Hills Country Club in Omaha, opened with three straight birdies, before a run of seven consecutive pars that kept him at the top of the leader board.

"I hit the ball as well today as I did yesterday, and maybe even better," said Vermeer, 34. "To have three straight birdies to start a round was awesome."

But Vermeer, making his second appearance in the PGA Assistant Championship, made only his second bogey in 29 holes on the par-3 11th to lose the second-round lead to Scott.

"I missed some greens on the wrong side of the hole and had some tough up and downs that led to bogeys," said Vermeer, who bogeyed three of his final eight holes. "But if you would have told me that I was 9 under through 36 holes, I would take that any time."

Johnson, a PGA apprentice at Davis Park Golf Course in Fruit Heights, Utah, posted a second consecutive 69 to put himself in position to contend for a National Championship this weekend.

"I am very happy overall with the way I played both today and yesterday," said Johnson, 29. "It was a flurry of bogeys and birdies today, but I held it together and gave myself a chance to play well this weekend."

Two-time defending champion Frank Bensel of Purchase, N.Y., posted a 73 in the second round and sits in a tie for 38th with 36 holes to play.

The 2012 field features the top four finishers from last year's Championship as well as 122 players who advanced through their PGA Section Championships.

Also at stake for the Champion is a spot in the 46th PGA Professional National Championship, June 23-26, 2013, at Sunriver (Ore.) Resort.

The winner of the 2012 Championship will collect $9,000 of the $100,000 purse.