Sims’ 59 Steals Headlines as Weaver Maintains Lead at eGolf Tour’s Southern Open
By Stewart Moore
Kannapolis, NC – Word of Michael Sims’ second-round 59 at the eGolf Tour’s Southern Open spread quickly on Thursday afternoon just north of Charlotte, NC, but it was 18-hole leader Drew Weaver of High Point, NC who remained atop the leaderboard at the conclusion of 36 holes. Weaver, the tour’s leading money winner in 2012, followed up a 9-under 62 on Wednesday with a 4-under 67 on day two to reach 13-under 129 at the event’s halfway point, one shot clear of Sims heading into Friday’s third round.
The Southern Open is the 15th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season, and is being contested this week at both The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis, NC and the Country Club of Salisbury in Salisbury, NC.
Weaver, arguably the hottest developmental tour player in the country right now with a win and four runner-up finishes in his last six starts, entered the second round with just a one-shot lead after a bogey-free 62 at the Country Club of Salisbury on Wednesday gave the former Virginia Tech star the event’s 18-hole lead.
Starting on the front nine of the Davis Love III-designed Irish Creek course, Weaver picked up right where he left off 24 hours prior with birdies on Nos. 5 and 6 to post a 2-under 33 on his outward nine.
“I kind of got off to a slow start out there today,” said Weaver, 25. “Seemed like I had some lip-outs on the front nine, but I was able to get a few more to drop on the back nine.”
A trifecta of birdies on Nos. 11, 12 and 13 vaulted Weaver up to 5-under on his round and 14-under on the week, but a three-putt bogey on the par-3 15th – his first of the event – slowed his momentum somewhat.
Weaver, however, viewed the bogey as a good thing.
“I’ve had a few stretches this year where I’ve gone bogey free for more than a round, and it almost becomes a burden after a certain point,” said Weaver, who is now 94-under par in his last 24 rounds on the eGolf Tour. “It can kind of alter how you play, when you start worrying about whether or not you’re going to make a bogey.”
Following his first scorecard blemish in 32 holes of play, Weaver pared Nos. 16 through 18 to finish off his 4-under effort on day two and post his 13-under 129 total, good for the tournament’s 36-hole lead.
“I’m very pleased with today,” he said. “Golf is a funny game and some days are going to be better than others. When you go really low one day you have to be mentally ready for a subdued day the next.”
While Weaver’s 67 is certainly nothing to be ashamed of, it did fall on a day when records were being set left and right on the eGolf Tour.
First up was Ryan Sullivan of Winston-Salem, NC, who eagled his first hole of the day at The Club at Irish Creek en route to a stunning 10-under 61 that tied the course record and moved the former UNC Wilmington standout into a tie for 10th at 8-under 134. Sullivan’s 61, which was capped off by a birdie at the par-4 ninth (his last), was just his second round posted in the 60s on the 2012 eGolf Tour.
Sullivan’s 61 garnered attention for roughly one hour before Sims came in with his 12-under 59, which bettered the tour’s previous record by one shot. The immaculate performance by the Bermuda native came courtesy of eight consecutive birdies at the start of his round.
“I’m not going to be the guy who says he’s frustrated with 4-under, because it’s still a good round,” said Weaver. “But it’s clear that scores are low and I’ll have to keep it up to have a chance. If I play really well the next few days, I should be in good position to win on the back nine on Saturday.”
Weaver, the 2007 British Amateur champion and star member of the 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team, has gone from a mediocre season by mid-April to a breakout year by early-July. Beginning with a T2 at the Columbia Open in May, Weaver notched his second career win at the Willow Creek Open two weeks later, then posted a playoff loss at the HGM Hotels Classic at Rock Barn, a runner-up at the Bolle Classic, and a runner-up at the Spring Creek Classic – all in the span of six starts. That stretch has placed him at No. 1 on the tour’s money list with $77,813 in season-long earnings.
For Sims, an even-par 71 on Wednesday at Irish Creek masked what would become a tour-record-setting and course-record-setting day on Thursday at Salisbury.
A former University of Rhode Island standout and Web.com Tour member in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, Sims entered day two at the Donald Ross-designed Country Club of Salisbury course playing alongside Henrik Norlander of Sweden and Kevin Foley of Somerville, NJ. Sims, known for his ability to get hot quickly on the golf course, did just that out of the gate in the second round.
Starting at the par-4 first in the morning’s 9:03 AM pairing, Sims birdied his first eight holes – four of which came via putts 10 feet or longer – prior to flying the green at the par-3 ninth and getting up and down for the first par of his round.
The early barrage of birdies gave Sims a tour-record-setting 8-under 27 on the opening nine, and sent him to the closing nine at Salisbury in need of a 4-under effort to match golf’s magical number.
A birdie at the par-4 10th took Sims to 9-under on his round, but then gave way to a four-hole stretch of pars that kept him three birdies shy of the 12-under mark needed to reach 59.
Those three birdies came courtesy of an up-and-down at the par-5 15th, a 22-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th, and a tap-in birdie at the narrow par-3 17th, that all combined to move him to 12-under on the day with just one hole to play.
“I thought I needed to make a birdie at the last hole to shoot 59,” said Sims, who had temporarily forgotten Salisbury’s par of 71. “Nothing would have been different if I had known I just needed a par for 59, I was trying to make a birdie either way.”
A perfect tee shot on the downhill par-4 closing hole left Sims with 126 yards to a front-right hole location. A 54-degree wedge hit to 15 feet set up what he thought would be one final birdie try to break 60.
“I hit that birdie putt and left it a few inches short and thought, ‘You have to be kidding me,” said Sims after his round. “When the guys in the group congratulated me, I remembered that it was a par 71. Pretty surreal feeling.”
Sims’ record-setting day bettered the tour’s previous best of 60, set by former Web.com Tour member Dustin Bray in the first round of the 2009 Walnut Creek Open in Goldsboro, NC.
“I think 59 is the best I’ve ever played,” joked Sims after his round. “What’s cool is that the 27 on the front nine is my lowest by two. I shot 29 out on this tour a few years ago.”
Sims’ 59 bettered his previous best tournament score of 63, and helped to ignite a 2012 campaign that had slipped in recent weeks.
After posting three top-6 finishes in his first eight starts on the year, the 33-year-old Sims had missed three of his past four cuts entering the week at the Southern Open – including each of his last two.
“I knew I had a good one in me, I didn’t know it was going to be 59,” said Sims, currently 19th on the eGolf Tour money list. “There was a point out there where it felt like it was going to be a low round, and it just kept going.”
The 59 was four shots clear of the next lowest round carded at the Country Club of Salisbury on Thursday, as Brad Brunner of Tampa, FL and Cam Burke of Ontario, Canada each posted rounds of 8-under 63 on day two.
Entering the scoring area, Norlander, a three-time “All American” at Augusta State and key member of the Jaguars’ back-to-back NCAA Championship teams, referred to Sims’ opening nine as the best he had ever witnessed. Foley, currently 71st on the Web.com Tour money list, concurred.
“It was pretty cool to see a 59 that could have been a 58 or even lower. It was a pretty smooth round. It wasn’t like he chipped in or made a 70-footer,” said Foley, currently second on the eGolf Tour money list. “It was the hottest start I’ve ever seen, and from there it finished off pretty well at the end. It was impressive.”
Word of Sims’ round spread quickly via social media outlets, as did photos of his head shot – complete with grown-in mustache. The affable Bermudian was without doubt one of the more popular characters during his years on the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuit, and has more than held his own as a player favorite on the eGolf Tour.
“I’m more nervous right now talking to you. I was really calm all day,” said Sims, a self-proclaimed free spirit. “It’s a weird thing. It’s just a really weird thing.”
Sims made 94 career starts on the Web.com Tour, collecting four top-10 finishes and $184,295 in earnings. His best finish was a tie for ninth, recorded three times, at the 2011 Price Cutter Charity Championship, the 2009 Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the 2009 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
“Pretty impressive to start with eight birdies in a row,” said Weaver of Sims’ 59. “He has a lot of game, so it was only a matter of time before he had a round like that. I’m really looking forward to teeing it up with him tomorrow.”
In solo-third place at 10-under 132 is former Clemson University standout Brian Duncan of Mount Pleasant, SC. Duncan, a current Web.com Tour member, has posted rounds of 66-66 this week to play his way into Friday’s final threesome, just three shots behind Weaver.
After posting his 5-under 66 at Irish Creek on Wednesday, Duncan began round two at Salisbury in ideal fashion, starting birdie-birdie-eagle to move to 4-under on his day through just three holes of play.
A bogey at the par-4 eighth put the Greenville, SC native at 3-under 32 on the turn, but a turnaround birdie on No. 11 quickly pushed him back up to minus-4 on the day.
At the docile par-5 13th, Duncan recorded one of the hole’s rare bogeys on the day, but again bounced back admirably with an eagle at the par-5 15th just two holes later – his second eagle of the round.
Pars on Nos. 16 through 18 kept Duncan at 5-under for the day, where he finished for his second straight 66.
The week marks Duncan’s eighth made cut in eight starts thus far on the year. In his prior seven starts, Duncan finished outside the top 20 just twice, and entered the week at the Southern Open on the heels of T5 and T8 finishes in his last two events – his only top-10s on the year.
Seven players sit tied for fourth at 9-under 133, four shots behind Weaver. Among the seven are Adam Mitchell of Atlanta, GA (Weaver’s Walker Cup teammate in 2009), as well as 2012 eGolf Tour winner Josh Brock of Wilmington, NC.
The 36-hole cut fell at 4-under 138, with 65 players making it through to the final 36 holes. Third-round play in the Southern Open will begin at 8:00 AM on Friday morning at The Club at Irish Creek. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.