Here come the kids! Amateurs John Peterson of LSU and Harris English of Georgia have been strutting their stuff through the first two rounds of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and find themselves holding down the top two spots on the leaderboard.
Peterson, winner of the 2011 NCAA individual championship, is at 11-under 131 after two trips around the Ohio State University Scarlet Course. English, winner of last week’s prestigious Southern Amateur Championship in Palm Harbor, Fla., is at 10 under and one shot back.
This is the first time in 22-year history of the Nationwide Tour that amateurs have held the top two spots on the leaderboard after two rounds.
The two college rivals played a practice round early in the week and find themselves paired together for Saturday’s third round, courtesy of their 1-2 standing.
“It was just the usual stuff, a lot of hunting and college football,” English said of the early-week topics. “It’ll be fun. I saw him put up 11 under this morning. It was something to look at all day. We’re good friends. We know each other’s games pretty well.”
Peterson, who shot a 7-under 64 to hold the first-round lead, carded a 4-under 67 early Friday and then headed to the pool to try and cool off in the sweltering heat. Temperatures were in the mid-90s and the heat index reached into triple digits.
English started late in the day and waited out a 100-minute rain delay before he birdied two of his final three holes for a second straight 5-under 66 and a 132 total.
“There’s a lot of good amateurs here. It speaks highly of collegiate golf this day and age,” said English, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday on Saturday. “There’s just a lot of good players in college and amateur golf this year. It doesn’t surprise me.
English was making a late run up the leaderboard and was at 8 under and facing a three-foot birdie putt on his 16th hole when a fast-moving storm rolled into central Ohio, forcing officials to halt play just as the clock struck 6:00 p.m.
“I didn’t want to putt that,” he admitted. “The storm was coming in, lightning was popping everywhere. I didn’t want to go ahead and hit it quick. That storm was coming up fast and they were going to blow the horn any minute.”
English waited and when he returned, rolled in the short birdie putt to grab solo second place. He added another 20-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth to cut Peterson’s lead down to one.
Peterson stumbled out of the gate during the morning session with a double bogey but rebounded quickly with back-to-back birdies and settle his nerves. He added four more birdies during the day and was up by three when he was done.
His 131 total bettered the tournament’s 36-hole record by four strokes and he looked firmly in command of the event that invites a dozen top college players to tee it up with the Nationwide Tour pros. Daniel Summerhays was a senior-to-be at BYU when he won the inaugural event in 2007 to become the first amateur ever to win on the Nationwide Tour. Rickie Fowler had competed his sophomore year at Oklahoma State when he lost a playoff to Derek Lamely here in 2009.
“I’d love to turn pro and make some money this week. How much is first place, like 150 grand?” Peterson asked. “You know that’ll be there in two months.”
First prize is actually $144,000, but Peterson has his sights set on making the United States Walker Cup Team that will compete in Scotland in mid-September.
“The chance to play for your country won’t be around forever,” he said. “The only thing that you can do other than that is the Ryder Cup and I’m waiting for that. I hope I make it.”
San Diego’s Brian Smock (68) and Cincinnati’s Brett Wetterich (67) share third place at 8-under 134. Columbus native Kyle Reifers played his final eight holes in 2 over par and ended the day with a 3-under 68 to reach 7-under 135. He is tied for fifth with Aaron Watkins (70) and Josh Broadaway (67).
Seven players are at 6-under 136, including Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein, the reigning U.S. Amateur Champion.
Smock, 38, has made no secret of the fact that the suffocating heat and humidity are taking a toll.
“I can’t think of any place in my golf career that has been hotter,” he said after completing his morning round. “I think you can lose about 10 pounds on a day like this!”
Smock said that after his practice rounds early in the week he had a feeling he was in for a good week despite missing the cut at last week’s Chiquita Classic.
“I shot even-par but I knew I was close,” he said. “You have to be careful out here when you miss cuts and not get down on yourself and start changing things. You could be right there, make a wrong decision and head off in another direction where if you had just stayed on course you’d be fine.”
Wetterich has been searching for the form that earned him a victory at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in March but has since seen him fall to No. 13 on the money list with three consecutive missed cuts.
“I think I’ve missed every cut by a shot or so. It’s a couple of bad shots some weeks and last week it was just bad putts,” he said. “In putting I’ve always been like this. I’ll go a month where I make everything I look at and they’re for pars and then turn around and make everything for birdies. I’m just kind of sporadic like that.”
--A fast-moving thunderstorm rolled through the Columbus area in the late afternoon. Heavy rain and lightning forced officials to suspend play at 6:00 p.m. ET with 21 players still on the course. Play resumed at 7:40 p.m. Saturday’s play will be in twosomes off the 1st tee with an expected finish time of 5:00 p.m.
--A total of 68 players (65 pros and three amateurs) made the 36-hole cut, which came at even-par 142.
--Jeff Curl withdrew during the round due an ankle injury. John Riegger withdrew due to heat-related problems.
--John Peterson of LSU broke the tournament’s 36-hole scoring record by four shots. The old mark of 7-under 135 was held jointly by Joe Daley, Rickie Fowler and Dave Schultz, who were tied for the second-round lead in 2009.
--Peterson’s 131 score is also the best single 36-hole score in tournament history. Josh Broadaway posted a 133 total (66-67) in the second and third rounds in 2008 and Derek Lamely matched that 133 (68-65) during the third and fourth rounds in 2009. Peterson is tied for first in greens in regulation (29 of 36).
--Matt Hendrix closed with six birdies on his final seven holes for a 3-under 69. Hendrix birdied his final four holes and is now at 6 under and tied for eighth.
--Harris English is first in putting (49 putts).