EAST PROVIDENCE — Golf is never as easy as Luke Guthrie made it look when he shot a tournament record round of 61 in the opening round of the 50th Northeast Amateur on Wednesday.
Guthrie came back to earth during Thursday’s second round, shooting a 71 that left him with a one-shot lead over Georgia Tech’s Kyle Scott and Florida State’s Michael Hebert heading into today’s third round.
“There are so many great players in this tournament,” Guthrie said after finishing early. “I expect by the end of the day, I might not even have the lead.”
Guthrie, the University of Illinois standout, was right about the great players chasing him. Peter Uihlein, the world’s top-ranked amateur, is just two shots off the lead, tied for third with Florida’s Bank Vongvanij.
Seventeen players were within four shots of Guthrie when play was halted at 3:18 p.m. At that juncture, the steady rain received some accompaniment in gloom from the sounds of thunder rumbling down from the sky. Play resumed at 5:58. Rain is again in the forecast for this afternoon.
“I thought it was harder out there today (than Wednesday),” said Guthrie, who teed off at 8:32 in the morning and missed all but a few rain drops. “The wind was up and there were a few tougher pins out there. I wasn’t as sharp as yesterday. I had 22 putts on Wednesday and probably around 30 today.”
Guthrie, the 2011 Big Ten champion, started on the back nine and birdied No. 11 to briefly go to 9-under par.
“Then I began to scramble for pars,” he said. “On No. 17, I had mud on my ball in the fairway and the ball hooked left and almost out of bounds. I could have still made par but took a bogey instead. “
Guthrie bogeyed the short par three third hole to fall back to seven-under, then doubled the tricky 7th hole when his approach shot from 100 yards away landed 15 feet right and five feet short of the pin before trickling back down off the green.
“The pin was in a pretty dicey place,” he said. “I chipped back on to the green and the ball rolled off the left side of the green.”
Guthrie now faced a downhill par chip back to the pin. If his ball ran 10 feet past the hole, it would might roll off the front of the green. He chipped and then trotted after his ball as it leaked nearly 10 feet past the cup, slipping his marker behind the ball as soon as it stopped rolling. Guthrie then two-putted for double-bogey.
Showing his mettle, Guthrie shook off the double-bogey and hit the par three eighth green, leaving himself a 20-foot putt that found the bottom of the cup for a birdie two. He finished his 18 holes with a solid par on the dangerous 9th hole.
“I finished birdie-par,” he said. “That gives me some momentum (for the third round). I’m halfway there and feel pretty good about my position after two rounds.”
Scott, a native of South Africa, started his round on the front side and clipped two shots off par on his first nine holes, making birdie on the sixth and eighth holes. He then made eight straight pars before birdieing the final two holes for a bogey-free round of 65.
Uihlein admitted to “grinding out” his round of 68.
“It was kind of a grinding day for me,” the personable Oklahoma State rising senior said. “You’re usually going to have at least one of those in a four-round tournament. I think I’m a little bit smarter about how I play the course this year. Last year, my score would have been a little higher. The big thing for me is keeping the ball below the cup and having more uphill putts. Sometimes, you might be better off short of the green with a 20-foot chip shot up to the hole than on the green with a 30-footer downhill.”
There were several pin placements that left the players with that specific option. The pin on No. 2, for instance, appeared no more than 10 feet from the bottom of the green. The second hole is playing tougher than any other hole on the golf course, with only 10 birdies against 75 pars and 58 bogeys during the first two rounds.
The ninth hole, with the pin in the top right corner for the second round, ranks second in difficulty. It leads the tournament with eight double-bogeys and just nine birdies (No. 16 has also yielded a tourney-low nine birds).
CHIP SHOTS: Bellingham’s Brian Higgins got in nine holes before rain suspended play. Higgins birdied No. 1, then made four bogeys, another birdie, and a double bogey on nine for 38, four over for the front nine and eight over for the tournament. Higgins finished with a 75 and stands at 148 after two rounds.