PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida (February 3, 2016) – Karen Paolozzi of Atlanta, Georgia, paces the Women’s Stroke Play Championship by six shots after the second of three rounds, while Nick Beddow of Shirley, New York and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio share the 36-hole lead at the Stroke Play Championship.
Both stroke-play championships are being contested this week at PGA Golf Club. The men’s field was split Wednesday on the Wanamaker and Ryder courses. The women’s second round, meanwhile, was played exclusively on the Ryder Course.
At 137, Beddow of Shirley, New York, and Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, are tied for the lead at the halfway mark of the 63rd Men’s Stroke Play Championship, which was played Wednesday in a persistent wind that challenged the field mentally and physically.
If Sowards’ perch atop the Stroke Play leaderboard is familiar, it is because he has won this title a record four times (2005, ’06, ’13, ’14). His 69 today on the wide-open Ryder Course was bogey-free despite a relentless wind.
“It was a lot harder today with the wind,” said Sowards, who is in search of his third Stroke Play Championship in four years. “My goal was to hit greens. I did that, but I did not get anything out of it because my putts weren’t falling, outside of the second hole. But, I did not lose my patience and played well overall.”
After 36 holes, Sowards is following a script he’s written before. “My goal going into any tournament is four rounds in the 60s,” he said. “I am halfway there. If I can do it two more times, I figure I’ll be in or near the lead.”
Beddow carded Wednesday’s low score, a 4-under 68 (six birdies, two bogeys) , despite a pair of eagle putts lipping out (on 7 and 16) and playing the Wanamaker Course, which is historically more challenging that its brethren, the Ryder.
“I played solid and missed just two greens,” said Beddow, who opened with a 69 Tuesday on the Ryder. “I just kept it all in front of me, in the fairway. I didn’t hit any errant shots and took advantage of the downwind par 5s.”
Jeff Wells of Redondo Beach, California, sits alone in third place with a two-day total of 138. Like Sowards, Wells tussled with an exposed Ryder Course on Wednesday. He seemed pleased with his 1-under 71.
“That was a three-club wind, which is tough to gage,” said Wells, who is the lone contestant from California. “You have to hit greens to get opportunities, and with the wind like this, it’s really difficult. This was a tough day overall.”
Jeffrey Marin of Warwick, Rhode Island, is fourth at 139. He has tallied and eagle and nine birdies through his initial 36 holes.
First-round leader Jon Mansfield of Clearwater, Florida, tripled the Wanamaker’s 18th hole, but otherwise played well en route to a 74. He is tied for fifth at 140, three shots out of the lead, with Rob Labritz of Pound Ridge, New York; Yong Joo of Bristow, Virginia; and Rich Berberian of Derry, New Hampshire.
A total of 71 players made the cut. The cut line was 151.
Defending Stroke Play Champion Rod Perry is tied for ninth at 3-under 141. Perry, who also won this Championship in 2007, and Sowards are the only former champions in the field.
When reminded that the Stroke Play’s final two rounds would return to the Wanamaker Course, Sowards sounded confident.
“Historically, I have always scored better on the Wanamaker even though it’s a harder golf course,” he said.
Paolozzi leads Lynn Valentine of East Lyme, Connecticut, by six shots and is just 18 holes shy of securing her second Women’s Stoke Play Championship in three years.
The 2014 Women’s Stroke Play Champion, Paolozzi felt “better today” about her game. “I put the ball in the hole a bit faster,” she said.
Paolozzi’s 67 on Wednesday included five consecutive birdies on holes 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the Wanamaker.
“Five birdies in a row always help,” said Paolozzi, who will ride a two-day total of 138 into Thursday’s final round. “After the second birdie, I felt good. Then after the third in a row, I just wanted to keep it going. It was fun. I could feel my confidence grow. Five straight matched my personal record.”
Paolozzi’s playing resume continues to grow, seemingly by the month. She played in the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship and has already qualified for the same LPGA major this June at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington.
For now, the summer schedule can wait. Paolozzi has just one thing on her mind and that is winning a second Women’s Stroke Play Championship, a feat accomplished by only two others: C.J. Reeves (2005, ’09) and Carolyn Barnett-Howe (2006, ’08).
Paolozzi is comfortable in these familiar surroundings at PGA Golf Club.
“I’ve played these golf courses (at PGA Golf Club) a lot” she said. “I’ve had a number of good rounds here in this Championship, in the PGA Assistants Championship and even back to college (she played collegiately at Indiana University), when we played here during Spring Break. That said, there is a lot of talent in this field. There always is. So, I need to keep my foot on the pedal.”
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by Premier Golf and Golf Advisor.