Hadley and Duncan Share 18-Hole Lead at Inaugural River Landing Open
By Stewart Moore
Wallace, NC – Through 18 holes of the eGolf Tour’s inaugural River Landing Open, Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, NC and Brian Duncan of Mount Pleasant, SC share the lead after posting rounds of 7-under 65 on Wednesday. With eight top-5s in his first 35 eGolf Tour starts, Hadley is hopeful that his fast start leads to something even bigger – his first tour title.
The River Landing Open is the 16th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season, and is being contested this week on the River Course at River Landing Country Club in Wallace, NC.
Hadley began his opening round on the back nine at River Landing with three consecutive pars that led into an early-round eagle at the par-5 13th to move to 2-under on the day. Back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 moved the former Georgia Tech standout to 4-under through seven, and gave him a 4-under 32 on the turn.
On his closing nine, Hadley played steady golf with birdies on Nos. 2 and 5 to reach 5-under for the day. Pars on Nos. 6 through 8 brought Hadley to the par-4 ninth, where he was able to post one more birdie for a 3-under 33 on his inward nine and an opening-round 65.
“Honestly I’ve shot scores lower than 65, but today may have been my best round ever,” said Hadley, 25. “Every line I picked was right at it with the correct ball flight and club. I was always in control, in the perfect rhythm all day. Sometimes golf just feels easy, and today was one of those days.”
The 65 marked Hadley’s fourth straight round at 66 or better on the eGolf Tour, as well as his eighth round of 68 or better in his last nine rounds on tour.
Currently fifth on the eGolf Tour money list with earnings of $52,210, Hadley has been knocking on victory’s door in 2012, hoping to finally break through at some point.
A missed cut to start his season masked what would become Hadley’s best year to date on the eGolf Tour. After a missed cut at the Palmetto Hall Championship in February, Hadley posted top-5 finishes in three of his next five starts to help cement a career-best level of consistency.
“I’ve had a great year. I’ve been super consistent all year and had a lot of top finishes and made 13 cuts in a row – knock on wood,” said Hadley. “This is my second full year out here. I’m comfortable on the courses, I’m more mature, I’m stronger and I feel I’m better. It’s the best year of golf I’ve ever had.”
At the tour’s inaugural Championship at Wintergreen Resort three weeks ago, Hadley dueled alongside good friend Peter Malnati throughout much of the event’s final round, before coming up one-shot short of Malnati en route to his third career runner-up finish on tour.
Hadley’s eGolf Tour career began in runner-up fashion, when he battled current PGA TOUR members Tommy Biershenk and Jason Kokrak in just his second pro start at the 2010 Bushnell Championship, before losing to Kokrak on the 72nd hole.
A runner-up at the Samanah Classic in Morocco was the highlight of his 2011 sophomore campaign on tour, as were third-place finishes at the Southern Open and Cabarrus Classic.
In 2012, Hadley has watched close friend Drew Weaver come into his own with two wins and over $100,000 in earnings on the eGolf Tour. The two college stars spent years battling each other in the ACC, and formed a close bond that allows each to pull for the other when in contention. Weaver’s recent run, featuring two wins and four runner-ups in his last seven starts, has Hadley chomping at the bit to get that elusive first win.
“I’m very good friends with Drew. I’m ecstatic for him. There is not a player in the world who has done what he has done this year,” Hadley said. “It’s certainly motivating as I’m getting lapped by him on the money list. Seeing all of these guys win makes me want it more.”
After debating an early retirement from the game in the offseason, Hadley seems more convinced than ever that he’s going to win on the eGolf Tour. He cites support from his wife Amanda when validating the belief in himself, as well as his game.
“She has been a big reason for my play this year, just supporting me through good and bad,” said Hadley, who celebrated his two-year anniversary yesterday. “It’s one thing for me to feel like I’m going to win, it’s another thing to hear it from your best friend. It’s just a matter of time – whether it’s this week or at Q-School or somewhere else down the line, it’s going to happen.”
Duncan, a former Clemson University golfer and current Web.com Tour member, birdied the first three holes of his opening round to jump out to the day’s early lead while playing in the first threesome off of No. 1 at 7:30 AM.
A bogey at No. 4 somewhat slowed his momentum, but Duncan bounced back with a birdie at the par-5 fourth to move back to 3-under on the day, where he later made the turn following a birdie-bogey stretch on Nos. 8 and 9.
On the par-4 11th, Duncan recorded his third bogey of the day – a final stumble which perhaps ignited a bit of a back-nine fire.
Down to just 2-under on the day, Duncan erupted over the closing seven holes on the River Course with birdies at 12, 13, 14, 16 and 18 to post a 4-under 32 on his back nine to complete his day one 65.
The round marked the second-lowest of Duncan’s 2012 season, dating back to a first-round 62 at the River Hills Classic in May.
The Greenville, SC native has been a study in consistency thus far in 2012, with eight made cuts in eight starts and five top-25 finishes to his name. The 10-under effort on day one of that River Hills Classic yielded his best finish, when rounds of 62-69-73-72—276 gave way to a T5.
David Robinson of Sandersville, GA, Thomas Buran of Victor, ID and Drew Weaver of High Point, NC are tied for third, one shot behind the co-leaders after posting rounds of 6-under 66 on day one.
Robinson, the eGolf Tour’s leading money winner in 2008, has had an under-the-radar year in 2012, with four top-10 finishes and $24,070 in earnings to sit at No. 23 on the money list. Between starts, the former Web.com Tour member has spent time caddying on the PGA TOUR for brother-in-law and four-time eGolf Tour winner Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey.
The opening 66 marked Robinson’s 10th round of 67 or better on the year, and has the three-time tour winner poised for a mid-season run at win No. 4 this week in Wallace.
Buran played stellar golf for 17 holes on Wednesday, posting seven birdies and one lone bogey at the par-5 15th en route to his 66 – the lowest round (to par) of his brief eGolf Tour career.
The former Arizona State golfer is in the midst of his first year on the eGolf Tour, and is just one week removed from posting a season-best T12 at the tour’s Southern Open.
Weaver, the eGolf Tour’s leading money winner, began his Wednesday on the phone with Golf Channel’s hit show “Morning Drive,” discussing his 2012 season and this week’s Open Championship, to be contested at Royal Lytham & St. Annes – site of Weaver’s win in the 2007 British Amateur.
Following his interview, the former Virginia Tech star got back to work, posting birdies on three of his first four holes (Nos. 10, 12 and 13) to turn at 3-under 33.
A par-birdie-bogey start to his closing nine on Nos. 1 through 3 gave way to three consecutive pars, which had Weaver at 3-under on his round with three holes to play. In what has become typical Weaver fashion, however, the Sea Island (GA) resident closed with a bang, posting birdies on Nos. 7, 8 and 9 to finish the day at 6-under 66 and again inside the top five.
After winning last week’s Southern Open with a dramatic 30-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to defeat Michael Sims, Weaver moved past the vaunted $100,000 mark in 2012 earnings, in turn becoming just the seventh player in tour history to do so.
The win further solidified what has become a torrid stretch of golf for Weaver, who now has two victories and four runner-up finishes in his last seven starts on the eGolf Tour. Including his opening 66 at River Landing, Weaver is now 104-under par over his past 27 rounds on the eGolf Tour.
Second-round play in the River Landing Open will begin at 7:20 AM on Thursday morning at River Landing C.C. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.