Three Tied Atop the Leaderboard Through 36 Holes at eGolf Tour’s Forest Oaks Open
By Stewart Moore
Greensboro, NC – Through two frigid rounds at Forest Oaks Country Club – 30-year site of the PGA TOUR’s Wyndham Championship – Jonathan Fricke of Covington, GA, Peter Malnati of Dandridge, TN and Josh Brock of Wilmington, NC are tied for the lead at 7-under 137, with just 18 holes to play in the eGolf Tour’s penultimate event of 2012, the Forest Oaks Open.
The Forest Oaks Open is the 23rd of 24 scheduled events on the 2012 eGolf Tour schedule, and is being contested this week at Forest Oaks Country Club in Greensboro, NC.
After a brisk start to the week on Wednesday morning that forced a 30-minute frost delay, players at Forest Oaks were once again greeted with cooler-than-normal temperatures on Thursday morning, as remnants from Hurricane Sandy left the majority of residents in the southeast wondering where the fall season had ventured off to. With toboggans and packs of “Hot Hands” in tow, players took off to try and post red figures, while also doing their best to stay warm and allow for their hands to maintain some semblance of feel.
Fricke, a former Web.com Tour member, played in the frozen tundra of the day’s first threesome, teeing off at 8:30 AM alongside Travis Ross and Kevin McLister.
After posting a 5-under 67 to grab solo-third-place honors through 18 holes, Fricke began day two in sluggish fashion at 1-over through three holes after posting an early bogey at the downhill par-3 third. Birdies at the par-5 fourth and the par-5 sixth, however, took him to red figures on the day, and gave the former Georgia State golfer a 1-under 35 on his outward nine.
Another par-5 birdie – this time at the 11th – pushed Fricke to 2-under for his round and 7-under for the week, but a bogey at the difficult par-3 13th dropped him back down to minus-1 for the day.
Fricke followed up his second bogey with his fourth birdie of the day at the par-4 14th, in turn moving back to 2-under, where he eventually finished for a second-round 70 that left him at 7-under 137.
The 30-year-old Fricke has 42 career Web.com Tour starts under his belt, with just under $70,000 in career earnings. His best finish in two seasons on the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuit was a T3 effort at the Xerox Classic, where a final-round 71 left him five shots shy of winner Brendon de Jonge.
On the eGolf Tour, the easygoing Fricke has had plenty of success, picking up his first career win at the 2007 Stonebridge Classic during a season in which he finished eighth on the money list – thanks to a pair of runner-ups that played alongside his win.
Since then, he has collected two more runner-up finishes – one at the 2011 Grand Harbor Open, and a second at the Championship at Star Fort roughly seven weeks ago. At Star Fort, Fricke dueled down the stretch with former European Tour winner Anton Haig of South Africa, only to fall two shots shy when Haig birdied three of his final five holes to notch his first eGolf Tour title.
Malnati, the tournament’s 18-hole leader following a first-round 65 on Wednesday, played steady-yet-unspectacular golf on Thursday, posting two birdies and two bogeys alongside 14 pars for an even-par 72 to remain at 7-under through 36 holes of play.
The former University of Missouri standout made a quick bogey at the par-4 second but turned at 1-under 35 thanks to birdies at Nos. 4 and 7. On his closing nine, Malnati notched five consecutive pars before bogeying the par-4 15th to fall to even on the day, where he finished after recording pars on each of his final three holes.
Malnati’s 2012 campaign on the eGolf Tour has been of the breakthrough variety, with his first win coming at the Championship at Wintergreen Resort in June, and five additional top-4 finishes being scattered through the year – all resulting in $61,672 in earnings to sit at No. 5 on the money list. All told, he has now made 15 of 18 cuts on the year – with 14 coming in his last 15 starts following two missed cuts in his first three events of the season.
“At the beginning of the year, I made a big list of goals – one of which was to have multiple wins on this tour,” said Malnati on Wednesday. “I have one win, but I’d really like to get a second so I can check that off my list.”
Brock, who won earlier this year at the Championship at St. James Plantation, was one back of Malnati after opening round with a 6-under 66 that placed him in solo-second heading into today’s round.
Starting his day on the back nine, Brock bogeyed the par-4 10th, but quickly earned the lost shot back with a birdie at the dogleg-right par-4 11th. A bogey at No. 15 took him to 1-over on the day, but a three-hole stretch of birdies on 16, 17 and 18 gave him a 2-under 34 on his outward nine, pushing him further into the red at 8-under par for the week.
On his back nine, Brock bogeyed the par-4 first (his 10th), then added eight consecutive pars to wrap up a second-round 71 that put him at 7-under 137.
Much like Malnati, Brock came into his own in 2012, earning the St. James win in April, and adding two additional top-3s en route to a seventh-place standing on the money list with $58,563 in earnings.
At St. James, Brock trailed Malnati by one shot entering the final round in what could best be described as a hometown event, as it took place just 30 minutes from Wilmington. The former Seahawk standout rose to the occasion in the final round, dropping a clutch eagle putt on the 71st hole on his way to a closing 68 and a three-shot victory over Malnati and Shawn Jasper.
eGolf Tour leading money winner Drew Weaver of High Point, NC and Stephen Hale of Bakersfield, CA are tied for fourth, one shot back of the trio of leaders at 6-under 138, with both players having carded back-to-back rounds of 69.
Weaver, the 2007 British Amateur champion, is in the midst of wrapping up a dream season on the eGolf Tour. The former Virginia Tech star and 2009 U.S. Walker Cup team member has amassed earnings of $119,237 thanks to two wins and four runner-up finishes that allowed him to become just the sixth player in tour history (and the fastest) to eclipse the $100,000 mark in single-season earnings.
After missing his first two cuts of the year, Weaver went on a torrid stretch through the early summer months, notching two wins and four runner-ups in a seven-week stretch that placed him as arguably the one of the hottest golfers in the country. He would later add three more top-5 finishes, in turn taking his year-long tally to 10 – or, roughly a top-5 finish for every other start he made (21).
Hale, a former member of the University of California-Berkley golf team (currently ranked No. 1 in the country), has carded just two bogeys through 36 holes of play en route to his 6-under 138 standing. The 23-year-old has now made 14 of 20 cuts on the year, but has just one top-10 under his belt – a T8 at the River Hills Classic in May.
The 36-hole cut fell at 1-over 145, with 23 players making it through to the final 18 holes of play. The final round of the Forest Oaks Open will begin at 8:30 AM on Friday morning, with players competing in threesomes off of Nos. 1 and tees. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.