Rookie Haley leads Nationwide Chile Classic, other rookies second, third

By news services

Series: Tour

Published: Friday, March 09, 2012 | 6:55 p.m.

Three rookies, undaunted by their surroundings or the task ahead, hold down the first three spots at the halfway point of the Chile Classic. The three newcomers have a combined 13 Nationwide Tour starts among them, but all are unfazed by what they face in Santiago.

Paul Haley, a 2011 graduate of Georgia Tech, used nine birdies en route to an 8-under 64 that vaulted him atop the leaderboard on Friday. Haley's 13-under 131 total is two better than 2011 Illinois grad Chris DeForest, who posted a 65 and is 11 under after two rounds at the Prince of Wales Country Club.


Chile boasts 50 golf courses, despite having a population of only around six million.

Alex Coe, a 2006 grad from Pepperdine, sandwiched six birdies around a hole-in-one and matched Haley's 64 to get to 10-under 134.

The rest of leaderboard is dotted with veterans and local favorites.

Scott Parel (70), Steven Alker (67), Brad Elder (67) and Alistair Presnell (68) share fourth place, four back.

Camilo Benedetti (69) of Colombia is in a tie for eighth at 8-under along with three players from Santiago -- Christian Espinoza (67), Santiago Russi (67) and Mark Tullo (67).

Also making the cut and advancing to the weekend is 18-year-old amateur Juan Cerda of Santiago, who fired a 5-under 67 and is tied for 20th.

"I played pretty well with the putter, which I had failed yesterday," said Cerda, winner of the prestigious Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship in Miami back in December.

While the fan's attention is on the five (of nine) Chilean players who made the cut, the rest of the field is more interested in chasing down Haley, who is making only his third career start.

"I'm still trying to get my feet wet and learn as much as I can from some of these older guys," said the 24-year-old from Dallas. "Tee to green, I hit the ball really well on the front nine and then I scrambled well on the back nine for a few pars."

Haley didn't do anything crazy during his round, except maybe bogey the par-4 16th for the second straight day. Those are his only two hiccups through 36.

"I'm not a long hitter by any means, but I've been pretty good around the greens and with my wedges," he said. "I've been able to put the ball in the fairway a lot these first two rounds."

Accuracy is a premium on the tree-lined course, one of the shortest on tour at just 6,711 yards, and DeForest admits it isn't easy to back off the gas pedal.

"For me, this type of golf is not ideal," said the big-hitter. "I prefer to hit a bunch of drivers and try to use my length to my advantage."

It wasn't length but touch that jumpstarted his round. DeForest found himself in a greenside bunker at the par-5 ninth hole.

"Sometimes you think about making them, but not this one in particular," he admitted. "I had a bunch of sand behind the ball and I wound up hitting a chunk-and-run. I hit a perfect shot but I was just trying to get it up and down."

Second-Round Notes:

--A total of 74 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 3-under 141, a far cry from last week's 4 over par cut at the Panama Claro Championship.

--Leader Paul Haley has 15 birdies and two bogeys in two days -- both coming at the par-4 16th. He has also rebounded each day with birdies on No. 17 and No. 18. He is 7 under on the par 5s but only 1 under on the par-3s thus far.

--Derek Fathauer (79) withdrew prior to the start of the second round.

--Alex Coe recorded the tournament's first hole-in-one, acing the 180-yard fourth hole using a 7-iron. It his 11th ace overall but only his second in competition. His first one came in Buenos Aires at the 2009 Argentine Masters.

--Steven Alker (68-67 -- 135/-9) is the only player in the field without a bogey through 36 holes

--Alex Aragon opened his round with five consecutive birdies on the back nine. A 6-under 30 got him to 9 under at the turn. Aragon also closed his round Thursday with a pair of birdies.

--Clayton Rask eagled both par 5s on the back nine (14 and 18). He shot a 1-over 73 and missed the cut.

--The Nationwide Tour will take a week before beginning its domestic schedule. The Tour's next stop will be in Lafayette, La., for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open at Le Triomphe Country Club March 19-25.