Guthrie stumbles but retains NE Amateur lead

Illinois' Luke Guthrie

Illinois' Luke Guthrie

RUMFORD, R.I. – Like so many before him, at any level, at any tournament, Luke Guthrie found just how tough it is to come back from a record-setting round with an equally strong performance.

The rising senior at Illinois shot a tournament record 8-under 61 Wednesday in the opening round of the 50th Northeast Amateur Invitational at the Donald Ross-designed, par-69 Wannamoisett Country Club to take a five-shot lead.

One day later, it was a completely different scenario.

Guthrie’s ball wasn’t finding as many fairways, as many proper spots on the greens, and he wasn’t making as many putts. The result was a 10-stroke difference as he shot 71 in his Thursday morning second round.

However, the first-team All-American’s 6-under 132 total still was good enough to keep him atop the leaderboard, although now it’s only by a shot.

“It was a much tougher day,” Guthrie said after his round. “The pins were in harder spots, and there was a lot more wind than yesterday. And, I just wasn’t as sharp today. It was a grind, a real struggle. It (the score) could have been lower, but it could have been higher, too.”

Starting on the 10th hole, Guthrie birdied No. 11, but made bogey at 17, the only par-5 on the course. He three-putted for bogey at the par-3 third and made double-bogey 6 at the seventh hole when his approach shot hit 10 feet from the hole and spun back off the green and his first chip went over the green. He did come back and make birdie at No. 8.

“I just hit too many shots on the wrong side of the pins,” Guthrie said. “When you do that, you can’t expect to make a lot of putts.”

That was Guthrie’s case, for sure. In his round of 61, he had just 22 putts. The next day, he had 30.

“The course just came up and bit me, but I’ll get it back,” said Guthrie, who won the Big Ten Championship and the NCAA Central Regional this spring. “We’re halfway through the tournament and I’m still right in there, so I can’t complain too much.”

For the second consecutive day, play was stopped in the afternoon because of weather. The rain pretty much held off for the morning wave, started as the afternoon groups began play and increased to the level where officials blew the horn at 3:05 p.m. Two-hours and 50 minutes later, play resumed.

Kyle Scott, a South African who was a senior last season at Georgia Tech, had the best round of the day, a 4-under 65, to climb into a tie for second with Michael Hebert of Auburn, just behind Guthrie at 5-under 133.

Scott, a second-team All-American this past season, had a bogey-free round while making birdies at Nos. 6, 8, 17 and 18. Hebert started slowly with bogeys at Nos. 5 and 6 and then turned things around with birdies at Nos. 8, 10, 13, 17 and 18.

First-team All-Americans Peter Uihlein of Oklahoma State and Bank Vongvanij of Florida were another shot back at 134. Uihlein had a 68 Thursday while Vongvanij shot 66.

In at 135 were Jordan Russell (67) of Texas A&M, Corey Whitsett (68) of Alabama, Paul Haley (69) of Georgia Tech and Patrick Rodgers (67), an incoming freshman at Stanford.

“It was a grind out there today,” said Uihlein, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion. “But you’re going to have one of those in a four-round tournament. I scraped it around, but there’s 36 holes left, and a lot can happen.”

After Friday's third round, the field will be cut to the low 50 scorers and ties for Saturday's final round. This is the first time in the tournament’s long history that a cut is in place.

Nathan Smith, the three-time and defending U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and recent Sunnehanna Amateur winner, withdrew before the second round. Smith was battling a case of bronchitis and had a high fever Thursday morning.

In Wednesday’s opening round, lefty John Engler hooked his tee shot on the short par-4, 14th hole into the water and took a 6 en route to a 1-over 70. In Thursday’s second round, he holed out from the fairway on the same hole for an eagle 2 in recording a 2-under 67.

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