Daniels – The Stonehaven Course at Glade Springs is full of steep peaks and valleys.
Sunday’s contestants in the 42nd annual Mountain State Golf Classic had a hard time finding the highs.
Day 2 of the three-day event didn’t see a single player shoot under par, but saw the leader, Todd Duncan separate from the pack.
Holding a one-stroke lead coming into the day, Duncan rebounded from a disastrous start to shoot a 72, good enough for par as well as a four-stroke lead heading into Monday’s finale on the Cobb Course at Glade Springs.
Duncan, the reigning champion, found himself in trouble early, bogeying No. 2 and 3, but settled in with a birdie on four to right the ship.
“I knew I didn’t hit it well and shooting 39 wasn’t awful,” Duncan said. “I felt like I could get that back and I knew there were some birdie holes on the back nine that I needed to go after and I birdied them. I started to play solid on the back nine. So I got them all back and found a way to shoot even somehow.”
Duncan navigated the brutal terrain on holes five through eight, making par on all four but double-bogeyed nine to end a frustrating start to his day. But he persisted.
The WVU-bound golfer birdied three of the first four holes on the back nine to recover the strokes lost on the front, shooting par the rest of the way to remain 5-under for the tournament.
“There were just some holes out there that were very gettable,” Duncan said. “Like hitting in two on par-5s and driving the green on a par-4 so I knew I could make birdies there, so I executed and found a way to get those bogeys back.”
Most of Duncan’s peers weren’t as fortunate, including Davey Jude and Mike Mays who were one and two strokes behind him, respectively, coming into the day.
Mays, a six-time champion, spiraled through the front nine, birdying once and hitting par once. The other seven times he bogeyed or double-bogeyed, finishing 8-over par for the day to bring his tournament total to 5-over.
Jude, playing in the group behind Duncan, started well, tying the leader after he birdied No. 4 but a bogey on eight and a double bogey on nine ended the front on a sour note for the former Marshall golfer. On the back nine the story was one step forward, another step back.
Jude birdied three times but bogeyed twice and double-bogeyed once, eliminating all of his progress. He finished the day 4-over par, bringing him to par for the tournament.
“Myself,” Jude said when asked what he found to be challenging. “I didn’t play very well. They had some really, really tough pin locations out there today. I did not play very well and I hit a rough stretch in the middle of the round. I think I missed a short putt on seven, bogeyed eight and doubled nine. Bogeyed 11 and somewhere in there was a rough stretch and I couldn’t really find a way to get it back.”
For Jude, the struggles he felt he encountered on the first day remained as well. After missing a couple of putts at Grandview on Saturday, the struggles in the short game carried over into Sunday.
“I don’t know what it is,” Jude said. “Something’s never came across me in my playing days like this. Sometimes you’re going to struggle with putting but not this bad. Missing so many inside of – when you’re playing with friends they call them gimmes. I’ve probably missed five or six of those this tournament and that’s the five-shot difference.
“Tomorrow will definitely take all of my talent, all of my skills and a good day.”
Heading into Monday’s final round, Duncan will have a four stroke lead with Pineville’s Brett Laxton. The Wyoming East grad lost just one stroke on the day to stay within striking distance. Behind Laxton there’s a three-way tie for third between Jude, Chad Griffith and Landon Perry.
The final leg of the tournament will move across the road to the Cobb Course, one more suited for tournament play but also the one Duncan feels most comfortable on.
“After playing like I did today – not my best – and still be leading by over three shots, I feel confident,” Duncan said. “You never know what’s going to happen but I feel confident on Cobb. With a couple shot lead I feel confident. I think to morrow will be my best day in my opinion. I’ve played it so much and I know it like the back of my hand so I’m excited to get out there and go after it tomorrow.”
On the senior circuit Don Goins holds a one-stroke lead over Ted Upton after two days. Goins, the defending champion shot 2-over on Saturday and 5-over on Sunday. Behind Upton and Goins is Beckley golf coach Butch Freeman who is 15-over for the tournament.
Contact Tyler Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org, call him at 304-731-5542 and follow on Twitter @tjack94