DESTIN, Fla. – George Toone’s famous line, in his thick English accent, is that he didn’t come all the way to the United States just to fight the rain gusts he is used to back home in Edenbridge, England. Still, for all the headache a quick microburst at Sandestin Resort caused on Monday, Toone didn’t seem to feel it.
All 18 teams were on the Raven Course by the time strong wind gusts and a heavy downpour blew through. It was enough to soak through shirts and turn scorecards to a soggy mess. It was also enough to create one or two big numbers on many of those cards, just not Toone’s.
The Texas-Tyler freshman was one of three players to post 3-under 68 on Monday, and it gave him a share of the lead at the Golfweek Division III Fall Invitational. Toone was at the par-4 fifth hole when the downpour started. He walked away from that hole with birdie.
“Lucky we got it as we were walking to our second shot,” Toone explained, downplaying the situation.
That birdie was one of five Toone made in the second round. His round of 68 is his lowest in competition. The Golfweek Invitational is also Toone’s first start with the team. He played the Rhodes College Fall Classic as an individual last month, and tied for first.
Toone stands out with a thick English accent, especially in a crowd of Texas drawls. On Monday, he wore cobalt blue pants, the closest he could come to matching the rest of the team’s navy bottoms.
“There’s a lot of words that our guys don’t know what he’s trying to say,” Texas-Tyler head coach Craig McConnell said with a smile. A team trip to the restaurant Whataburger was especially trying.
Toone has been a strong addition to Texas-Tyler’s otherwise experienced roster. McConnell found Toone with help from a recruiting service.
“He hits a lot of quality golf shots,” McConnell said. He also recovers well when he doesn’t.
As a team, Texas-Tyler only counted one double-bogey during the period of hard rain. It’s one of the reasons the Patriots will take the lead into the final round. Texas-Tyler posted a second-round 4-over 288, and at 7 over for two rounds, leads Methodist by one.
“It was blowing a gail,” McConnell said of the storm burst. “It was really a tough time to hit a quality shot.”
Texas-Tyler not only slid through the storm relatively unscathed, but expertly managed the Raven the rest of the day. Buddy Hallman and Dayton Cargill have played the Raven before, and Chapman Herwood was also on the Texas-Tyler fivesome that finished 13th at the national championship last spring. Charley Graves has logged considerable experience in three seasons on the team.
McConnell expects his squad to perform well in what could be a final-round horserace with Methodist. The Raven is “the kind of course that affords you some birdies,” he said.
Even though Methodist is directly in Texas-Tyler’s rearview mirror, Methodist head coach Steve Conley isn’t overlooking a handful of teams that trail by seven to nine shots.
“There’s too much golf and the elements will probably play a little tough,” Conley said.
Led by junior Mason Stutler, who also posted 3-under 68 on Monday, Methodist posted the lowest team score of the second round, 2-over 286. The Monarchs were 3 under through 12 holes, but struggled through the closing holes. It wasn’t for lack of preparation.
Conley’s team is a regular at the Raven – Methodist has played in the Golfweek Invitational each of the past four years. This year, the weather during the practice round and the first round seemed a little too good to be true.
“Having been here for the past several years, we know it’s not going to stay like that,” Conley said.
Heavy storms are in the forecast for the final round, which will truly make the finale a story of the last man standing.