Schall Grabs Day One Lead at NorthStone Open With 7-under 64
By Stewart Moore
Huntersville, NC – Matt Schall of Williamsport, PA carded a season-best, 7-under 64 in the opening round of the eGolf Tour’s NorthStone Open on Tuesday, and will take a one-shot lead over two players heading into Wednesday’s second round of the 54-hole event.
The NorthStone Open is the 22nd event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and is being contested this week at NorthStone Country Club in Huntersville, NC.
Schall began his opening round on the front nine at the P.B. Dye-designed course in less-than-ideal fashion, notching a bogey on the short par-4 first to quickly fall to 1-over on the day.
“I hit my tee shot into the right rough and caught a flyer, with my second shot going over the green,” said Schall. “It wasn’t a great way to start my day, but I birdied the second to kind of get back on track.”
Schall’s birdie at the par-4 second took him back to even par, while a birdie at the reachable par-5 sixth took him into red figures for the first time all day.
A trifecta of birdies on Nos. 8, 9 and 10 moved the former University of Maryland golfer to 4-under on his round, while follow-up birdies at 13 and 16 catapulted him to 6-under while playing in the afternoon wave’s first threesome.
At the tricky par-4 18th, Schall hit a stellar 7-iron approach just under the hole, and converted the ensuing putt for a 7-under 64 – the low round of his eGolf Tour career.
“I’ve been playing a lot better, and really didn’t miss any shots today,” he said. “I hit a lot of approach shots close and inside 10 feet, so it wasn’t really a struggle out there.”
Schall has played the eGolf Tour full-time this year after spending the past few seasons playing various mini-tours. In 2010, he spent a year away from competition and on the bag for former Maryland teammate Bobby MacWhinnie, who was then a member of the Web.com Tour. Earlier in the year, Schall said that experience was a good one for him.
“It really gave me a good view of how the better players compete, but more importantly, it made me miss tournament golf. After that, I was ready to get back out again.”
By his own self admission, Schall’s 2012 campaign has been an up-and-down affair, with just five made cuts in 16 starts entering the week at NorthStone, and a T10 at July’s River Landing Open as his lone top 10.
At the season-opening Palmetto Hall Championship, Schall grabbed the day one lead with a 7-under 65 en route to a T34 finish.
“I haven’t played as well as I wanted to this year, but I’m playing good now, which is what really matters with Q-School around the corner,” he said. “I really like the course this week, so hopefully I can keep it going.”
Phillip Mollica of Anderson, SC and George Bradford of Pikesville, MD are tied for second after posting matching rounds of 6-under 65 in the late afternoon dusk.
Mollica began his first round on the back nine at NorthStone, posting birdies on 14, 15, 17 and 18 to turn at 4-under 31. Five pars to start his closing nine kept the former Clemson University star at 4-under for his round, but late birdies on Nos. 6 and 9 vaulted him to 6-under par for a day one 65.
The 6-under effort on Tuesday was a continuation of good play for Mollica, who entered the week on the heels of back-to-back top-25 finishes.
After notching his first win at the eGolf Tour’s El Jadida Classic in Morocco in March of 2011, Mollica opened 2012 with seven consecutive missed cuts before posting back-to-back top-20 finishes to end the drought. He has posted seven top-25 finishes on the year.
Bradford, making his first eGolf Tour start of the year, birdied four of his first six holes before carding a bogey at the par-4 18th to turn at 3-under.
The former University of Maryland golfer opened his back nine with a bogey at the par-4 first, but more than recovered the lost shot with birdies at Nos. 2, 6, 8 and 9 to finish his day with a 3-under 33 for a first-round 65.
Mikel Martinson of Lubbock, TX, who played in Tuesday’s morning wave, and held the lead for much of the early afternoon, is tied for fourth place with eGolf Tour newcomer Stephan Jaeger of Munich, Germany, with both players posting 5-under 66s on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old Martinson began his opening round on the back nine, making four birdies in his first six holes to quickly vault to 3-under for his round.
Temperatures in the mid-40s greeted all players in the field on Tuesday morning, forcing a number of contestants to search for toboggans in trunks and hand warmers in the pro shop. The cool air – roughly a 20-degree difference from just 48 hours prior – did little to slow down Martinson, who backed up his birdie at 12 with two more on 14 and 15.
The torrid start led to a front-nine 32 for Martinson, who quickly gave one back at the docile par-4 second when he hit an errant approach from 75 yards and wound up walking away with a bogey.
“The bad thing is that it was one of the few fairways I hit today,” he joked after his round.
A follow-up birdie at the par-4 fourth took him back to 3-under par for the round, while late birdies on Nos. 6 and 8 put the seal on a 5-under 66 on day one.
Jaeger, a first-team “All America” selection this past spring at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, overcame two bogeys in his first nine holes to post seven birdies on the day en route to a rookie debut of 5-under 66.
Jaeger was a three-time Southern Conference “Player of the Year” as one of the Mocs’ all-time performers, in turn becoming the first player to ever receive the honor three times.
Second-round play in the NorthStone Open will begin at 8:00 AM on Wednesday morning at NorthStone Country Club. Following the conclusion of 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 33 percent and ties for Thursday’s final round. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.