Three Tied for the Lead With 18 Holes to Play at Olde Sycamore Open
By Stewart Moore
Charlotte, NC – Through two rounds of the eGolf Tour’s Olde Sycamore Open, Dustin Bray of Asheboro, NC, Henrik Norlander of Sweden and Jonathon Krick of Phoenix, AZ are tied for the lead at 10-under 134 heading into Friday’s final round. While Norlander is eyeing win No. 1 during his maiden season on the eGolf Tour, and Krick is looking for win No. 1 in just his second career start, Bray is looking for his first win in just over three years, and hopefully the fifth of his career.
The Olde Sycamore Open is the 21st event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and is being contested this week at Olde Sycamore Golf Club in Charlotte, NC.
In a sense, Bray was fortunate to even be in the field for this week’s event. Just 12 days ago, the former University of North Carolina star injured his back to the point where he was forced to crawl around his apartment for the better part of 48 hours. Unable to support his own weight, he was left on the table of a masseuse hoping for some form of a miracle. Constant pressure that nearly brought him to tears fixed his ailment, and left Bray with the ability to compete this week.
“It was the most pain I had ever experienced, without a doubt,” said Bray, 31. “Once it got better though, I knew I’d be good for this week. I felt like I could play well, because I had been playing good before I got hurt.”
Bray’s 2012 had been marked by a slew of top-25 finishes (10 total), but just two top-10 efforts, including a season-best T3 at the Southern Open in July. In between his starts on the eGolf Tour, Bray made four appearances on the Web.com Tour, notching a T6 finish at The Rex Hospital Open in June – his first top-10 on that tour since May of 2009.
“I’ve been playing good this year, real consistent – I’m just ready to win again. I feel like it’s time,” he said.
Bray’s three-year drought dates back to the Walnut Creek Open in September of 2009, where a first-round 60 led to the fourth eGolf Tour title of his career. The former Tar Heel “All American” watched his eGolf Tour career take off in 2006, when he won three times en route to claiming the money title by $15,000 over current PGA TOUR member Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey.
His breakthrough 2006 led to full member status on the Web.com Tour (then Nationwide Tour) in 2007, 2008 and 2009. During his three-year stint on the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuit, Bray earned over $190,000 and notched a runner-up finish at the 2008 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational. When he lost his status following the 2009 season, Bray turned back to the eGolf Tour, mixing in a number of Monday qualifiers along the way.
“I think for me, there was an adjustment period going from the Nationwide Tour back down,” he said. “I felt like I was ready to win out there, but then I had to focus on trying to win out here again. I think I’m over that now, and feel like I’m playing some of my best golf.”
After opening his week with a 6-under 66 to sit in a tie for second through 18 holes of play, Bray began his second round on the back nine of the Tom Jackson-designed course, posting an early birdie at No. 12 to reach 1-under for the day. A bogey on No. 17 was offset by a birdie at the par-5 18th, which put Bray at 7-under for the day on the turn.
Birdies on Nos. 1, 4 and 7 vaulted Bray to 10-under for the week and 4-under for his round. At the par-4 ninth, a short-iron approach crept towards the hole, but spun back to 15 feet, leaving an uphill birdie try for sole possession of the lead. A good effort just missed, in turn leaving Bray with a closing par, a second-round 68 and a 10-under 134 total.
“It just feels like it’s time to win, it’s really been too long,” he said. “I’ve got Q-School coming up at (The Club at) Irish Creek, so it’s nice to be playing well at this time of year.”
For Norlander, Thursday’s second round was nearly a story of what may have been. After opening his week with a 3-under 69 on day one, the fast-paced Norlander raced out to 6-under on his day through nine holes, in turn reaching 9-under for the week to grab sole possession of the lead.
The back nine, however, would prove to be less fruitful, as a birdie at the lengthy par-5 12th took him to 7-under for the day, but quickly gave way to a six-hole stretch of pars to close out a second-round 65. The round marked his third effort of 65 or better on the year.
Norlander, a three-time “All America” selection at Augusta State, is in his rookie season on the eGolf Tour, and has been a study in consistency, posting six top-25 finishes as well as two career-best fifth-place finishes – including one two weeks ago at The Championship at Star Fort.
The native of Danderyd (Sweden) was a key member of the Jaguars’ back-to-back NCAA Championship teams in 2010-2011, alternating at the No. 1 or 2 position with 2012 PGA TOUR Monday qualifying marvel Patrick Reed.
Krick is making just his second eGolf Tour start after a missed cut at the Cabarrus Classic last week. The 25-year-old former University of Illinois golfer had one of the day’s more unusual rounds after beginning his week with a 5-under 67 on Wednesday.
Starting at the par-4 10th for Thursday’s second round, Krick opened with a double-bogey to fall to 3-under par before rallying with birdies on 12, 13, 16 and 17 to turn at 2-under for the day.
A birdie at the par-4 first (his 10th) took Krick to 3-under par, but it was a hectic closing stretch that gave his scorecard the feel of a roller coaster. Starting at the par-3 fourth, Krick finished his second round with a bogey-birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-bogey stretch to polish off a second consecutive 67 in order to reach the 10-under mark with 18 holes to play. All told, through 36 holes, the eGolf Tour newcomer has 15 birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey to his name.
Frank Adams III of Laurinburg, NC, Drew Weaver of High Point, NC and Gator Todd of St. Simons Island, GA are one back of the leaders at 9-under 135 heading into Friday’s final round.
Adams, the tour’s longest tenured member, birdied his final hole on Thursday to post a second-round 66 to move to 9-under for the week, backing up his opening-round 69.
A six-time eGolf Tour winner and former East Carolina University standout, Adams missed three of his first five cuts on the year, but has now made 11 consecutive cuts since. All told, the current Salisbury, NC resident has a stellar nine top-25 finishes to his name this season, with a T8 at the Willow Creek Open in May serving as his best result.
Weaver’s 2012 campaign has been nothing short of impeccable, with two wins and an unreal eight top-3 finishes to lead the tour’s money list with over $116,000 in single-season earnings. The former U.S. Walker Cup team member and 2007 British Amateur champion picked up his second and third career eGolf Tour titles, respectively, at the Willow Creek Open and the Southern Open. With his win at the Southern Open, the current Sea Island (GA) resident eclipsed the $100,000 mark in earnings, in turn becoming the fastest player to do so in tour history.
On Thursday, Weaver got to work early with six birdies in his first nine holes to turn at 4-under 32 and 8-under on the week following a Wednesday 68. His fast start dipped further into the red on the back nine with birdies at 14 and 16 to briefly tie Norlander for the lead (at the time) at 10-under, but a missed 2-foot par putt at the par-3 17th took him back to minus-9, where he finished after posting a par at the last for a second-round 67. The round marked his 26th round of 68 or better in his last 44 on the eGolf Tour, dating back to first-round 65 at the Columbia Open in May.
Todd, a former University of Alabama standout and son of former New York Jets quarterback Richard Todd, is actually rooming with Weaver this week as the two “Sea Island Mafia” members often hit the road together for tournaments.
Todd opened his 2012 campaign with a runner-up in just his second start at the Oldfield Open in February, but posted just one more top-10 (T8, River Hills Classic) prior to notching two in his last three starts entering the week at Olde Sycamore. A T4 at the Grand Harbor Open in August led to a missed cut four weeks later at the Championship at Star Fort, but the former Crimson Tide star bounced back last week with a T10 at the Cabarrus Classic to right the ship.
After opening his week with a 5-under 67, Todd began his second round in less than ideal fashion with a quick bogey at the short par-4 11th, but rebounded with birdies at 13 and 18 to turn at 1-under 35. Closing nine birdies on Nos. 1 and 7 took him to 3-under for the round, while a wedge shot to 6 feet at the par-4 ninth allowed him to close with one more red figure for a second-round 68.
The 36-hole cut fell at 3-under 141, with 48 players making it through to the final round of play. Friday’s final round will begin at 7:40 AM on Friday morning, with players competing in threesomes off of No. 1 tee. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.