AN NGA RALLY: Horne, Looper close in on tourney leader

By Jimmy LaRoue

Sports Writer

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HERTFORD — J.C. Horne and Ken Looper both tied for the low round of the day, but Thomas Hay retained his lead after Friday’s second round of the NGA Tour’s inaugural Biggs Cadillac-Buick-GMC Classic on The Sound Golf Links at Albemarle Plantation.

Hay, after breaking the course record during the opening round, shot a 1-under 69 with three birdies and a pair of bogeys to lead at 7-under 133 going into the weekend.

Horne, who had an opening round 69, has sole possession of second after his 66 put him at 5-under for the tournament.

Looper’s second-round 66, following an opening round in which he made 18 pars, has him in third at 4-under.

“I was just keeping it in play, not really getting too aggressive or anything, and just making a couple of putts here and there, nothing really too special or too bad, or anything like that,” Horne said. “It’s just been steady.”

Horne, who won the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic in May and has a pair of top-five NGA Tour finishes, made par on the first two holes and bogeyed the par-4, 385-yard third hole.

But on the par-5, 520-yard fifth, he rallied with a birdie, and had consecutive birdies on the eighth and ninth.

He added two more birdies and didn’t have a single bogey on the back nine.

Horne said his birdies on Friday, and his lower-scoring round, were the result of hitting the ball to good yardages so that he could hit more wedge shots from the fairway. Making a few more putts also helped.

“I think it’s big if you can keep it in the fairway, because if you get in the rough out here in some spots, trying to stop it on the greens gets difficult,” Horne said. “It’s almost a little better, I think, to lay back to 100 yards, or 75 yards, instead of trying to hit it up close and hit it in the rough.”

Nathan Kerns, who is at 1-over 141 after the second round, stressed the importance of keeping the ball in the fairway.

With tour pros used to playing longer 7,200-plus yard, driver-friendly courses, The Sound Golf Links’ 6,390-yard layout forces players to think through their tee shots.

“The rough is very tough out here,” Kerns said. “Not that your ball sits down, but it comes out knuckly, and when it hits on these firm greens, it’s just gone. If you keep it in the fairway, you can make some birdies, but as soon as you hit the rough, your mind immediately goes to par.”

Jarrod Barsamian and Toni Hakula made significant improvements on their opening rounds, both of them shooting 3-under 67s, leaving Barsamian at 5-over 145 and Hakula with a 6-over 146.

Barsamian was able to rest up after his opening round, which he said contributed significantly to his improvement.

“I was still a little bit tired from the other day,” Barsamian said about his opening round score. “We played a lot of golf on Wednesday and I didn’t quite recover and I was just tired. I went back after I finished and I didn’t move.”

Unlike his opening round, in which he didn’t have a single birdie while making five bogeys and a triple-bogey on the par-4, 302-yard ninth, he had just two bogeys and five birdies. One of those birdies came on that same ninth hole.

“I kept it in the fairways,” Barsamian said. “If you can keep it in the fairways out here, you can attack some of the pins and I was actually rolling a couple of the putts in.”

Kerns, who had several members of his family following him along the course, was five shots better in the second round.

“I felt like I kept the ball in front of me and hit some quality irons on the back nine and got the putter rolling a little bit, played well in the back,” Kerns said.

Though crowds have been sparse save the many volunteers out on the course, the players have been appreciative of the community’s support.

“It’s been an awesome time so far,” Horne said. “It’s probably the best (tournament) we’ve had with support.”

The crowds are likely to see a boost this weekend — as will the number of golfers on the course — with an additional 46 set to compete for a stake of $15,000 in a two-day sectional event.

“It’s phenomenal,” Kerns said of the tournament. “I hope we come back here every year. It’s great to have a crowd that you know exactly where your ball is even if you wouldn’t see it on the green. You know how good or how bad it is by the reactions.

“Everybody out here’s just been great. Southern hospitality.”