Blustery conditions at PGA Golf Club's Wanamaker Course made for tough scoring, but first-round leader Scott Berliner of Albany, N.Y., and Timothy Puetz of East Northport, N.Y., who trailed by a stroke after the opening round, share the 36-hole lead at 6-under-par 138 in the 35th Callaway Golf PGA Assistant Championship.
Aaron Clark of Springfield, Mo.; Tyler Hitchcock of Orlando, Fla.; and Anthony Casalino of Yonkers, N.Y., are tied for third, a stroke back of Berliner and Puetz.
With winds gusting to 22 mph, both Berliner, who shot an even-par 72 and Puetz, who shot a 71, were able to withstand the unpredictable weather.
"I felt I played as good today as I did yesterday," said Puetz, a PGA assistant professional at Hamlet Golf and Country Club in Commack, N.Y., who opened with a 67. "It was just that much tougher out there with the wind. It really started to pick up and you really had to fight the ball."
Berliner, who opened with a sparkling 66, made a double bogey on 18 to fall back into a tie with Puetz.
"The left-to-right wind made me uncomfortable all day off the tee and it really showed on 18," said Berliner, a PGA assistant professional at Normanside Country Club in Delmar, N.Y. "I survived and fought pretty hard today, I think, under these conditions."
Berliner was able to rely on his putter to save him on multiple holes.
"I leaned on my putter pretty good all day," said Berliner. "I made some good par saves on the front, birdied 11 and 12 and just hung on from there."
Puetz, who is competing in just his first PGA Assistant Championship, is excited about his position and confident he can play well over the weekend.
"I am excited to be where I am," said Puetz. "I always kind of knew I could be in this spot, I was just waiting for it to happen.
Clark, a PGA apprentice at Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield, Mo., played a relatively uneventful opening round that included only two birdies and two bogeys for a 72. But on Friday, he used seven birdies two offset a pair of bogeys for a 67.
"I hit it better, putted better and the swing is coming around finally," said Clark. "The swing was lost yesterday and I found it today."
Clark, who tied for 10th in 2010, is looking for a better finish. He had a total of 132 putts over 72 holes last year, but has not recorded a three-putt through 36 holes in 2011.
"My putting is definitely in a better this year and if I can keep that number low it will help a great deal," said Clark, who is making his third appearance in the Championship. "I think I can win if I play the way I normally play. If I can keep my swing in check and putt well I am pretty confident."
Casalino, who is making his third appearance, used a 40-foot eagle putt on the 16th hole to cap off his round of 69.
"I made four putts of more than 30 feet today and that 40-footer really helped near the end of the round," said Casalino. "I have been putting great and that's really what has been holding me together so far this week. I came here wanting to make the cut, but now I am looking to be around the lead on Sunday."
Defending Champion Frank Bensel of Purchase, N.Y., a PGA assistant professional at Century Country Club in Purchase N.Y., shot a second-round 73 and sits in a tie for 30th.
Stephany Fleet of Muskegon, Mich., a PGA apprentice at Muskegon (Mich.) Country Club and the only woman competing in this year's Championship, shot a second consecutive 76.
The par-72 Wanamaker Course played more than a stroke higher then it did in the opening round, yielding a 75.17 second-round scoring average.
Following Friday's play, the field was reduced to the low 70 scorers and ties, with 71 players making the cut at 5-over-par 149.
The 2011 Championship featured 126 PGA assistant professionals and apprentices. The format was changed in 2010 to include the top-4 finishers from last year's Championship as well as 122 players who advanced through their Section Championship.
Callaway Golf returned as the title sponsor for the third consecutive year.
At stake, provided the Champion meets eligibility requirements, is a coveted spot in the 45th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car and Mercedes-Benz, June 24-27, 2012, at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside, Calif. Additionally, the top 10 finishers and ties earn a berth into the first stage of the 2012 PGA Tour Qualifying School.
The PGA Assistant Championship continues a tradition of excellence in bringing together some of the most talented players in The PGA of America as well as being models of the caliber of members who make up the world's largest working sports organization.
Past champions include former Ryder Cup Team members Fred Funk and Loren Roberts, and past PGA Professional National Champions Darrell Kestner, Tim Thelen and Bruce Zabriski. Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, finished in a tie for third in 1998.