Kennesaw State’s Burton takes lead in Georgia Amateur

mlough@macon.comJuly 11, 2014 

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Kelby Burton tees off the 5th hole during second round action of the Georgia Amateur Championship Friday. He took an early lead with a 4-under 136.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

The leaderboard stayed busy with changing positions, and players turned in good scores that left them happy but not thrilled.

Kelby Burton shared best-round honors for the day with Zachary Healy and took the lead Friday in the Georgia Amateur Championship at Idle Hour Club, and Burton was happy with that.

But he sort of squeezed three rounds into one.

“There were phases of the round,” said the Kennesaw State senior, who shot a 4-under-par 66 to sit at 4 under after two rounds. “It was just different momentum swings. I was just trying to hold on.”

John Walker IV of Macon liked his 68 but felt a sub-65 day was easily within reach. Matt Mierzejewski had a bit of a roller-coaster ride, and Trey Rule was nine strokes worse than the first round.

The phrase “leaking some oil” was used by more than one player, and a few familiar names won’t be playing Saturday. The cut was 148, which is what two-time champ David Noll shot, to eke in, along with Maconite Sandy Burgess, among others.

But Travis Williamson, last year’s runner-up, didn’t make the cut, nor did Macon’s Travis Steed, Zane Goldthorp, Michael Morris or Bill Faith, among the state’s top amateurs. James Kiely, who started the tournament ranked second in the GSGA player of the year standings, was one of five withdrawals.

Five strokes separate Burton from the next 13 players after a morning that was rough on more than a few of the contenders.

Four players were tied for second at 2 under on Thursday: Seth Sweet, Jake O’Bryan, Will Chandler and Shawn Hodge. Chandler fell the least, down to a tie for 15th, Hodge into a group at 24th, 3 over and seven shots back.

Sweet was 7 over and O’Bryan 8 over on Friday. Will Duma and Charles Martin went from 1 under to 5 over, and Mookie DeMoss dropped hard from that group with an 11-over 81, missing the cut. There were 28 players at even or better entering Friday. There were 10 at the end of the day.

Stan Gann Jr. of Bonaire is among those who jumped into serious contention, following up a 71 with a 67 to get within two of the leader and share second with Healy and Steven Fisk.

Patience will clearly be a key, perhaps a bit more than normal.

“There are a lot of birdie holes,” said Fisk, who has had two straight 69s. “There are a lot of holes that if you can just make par and move on, you’re perfectly happy.”

Rule -- and Sweet -- had the third biggest difference in scores among contenders from Thursday at nine, trailing only DeMoss.

Rule’s day began like the skies: cloudy. He bogeyed his first hole, No. 10, and sandwiched a birdie on No. 11 with another bogey and had his third bogey on No. 16 after three pars.

“An early wakeup call,” he said. “I was like, ‘That’s a great way to start.’ ”

And then he handled Nos. 17 and 18, which had given so many trouble Thursday. But by mid-morning, the Mercer standout had played back to the pack a little, with several contenders still waiting for the afternoon session.

“The greens were a little quicker,” he said after the five-bogey, one-birdie round. “I had a rough time getting the speed on my putts. I hit a few loose shots, a couple bogeys.”

Walker improved by five strokes and is with four others in 11th but had mixed emotions.

“It could have easily been lower, for sure,” he said after five birdies and three back-nine bogeys and a front-nine 31. “I hit the ball well, I just made putts (Friday). I hit the ball great (Thursday), didn’t make any putts.

“It didn’t feel quite as good (Friday) just because of the finish.”

Walker and Fisk both left some shots on the course, but Fisk has some momentum thanks to being one of the five two-day contenders to have each of the first two rounds within a stroke of each other, a sign of rare consistency so far.

Sort of.

“They were pretty different,” the Georgia Southern signee said of the rounds. “(Thursday), I scrambled a lot, made a few greens. (Friday), I left a few out there. I had to take a couple thee-putts and a (double-bogey) on 11.

“I just kind of hung in there (Thursday).”

Burton is hoping to compact his play Friday into a smoother round.

“The first six holes, I had good looks at birdies on every hole,” he said. “I made, like, one. The second phase, I started to make more putts from farther out.

“The third phase, I was just kind of hitting it in bad places and having to scramble for par.”

Mierzejewski, a rising senior at Georgia Southern who is tied for fifth with Rule and three others at 139, had a pretty simple short-term game plan.

“(Thursday), I just didn’t make anything; putting was pretty poor,” he said. “Ball stroking overall for the first two days is pretty solid, it’s just the short game wasn’t (there).

“I’m going to have some lunch and practice, clean up a couple things. Wedges and putting, for sure.”

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