Georgia's Mitchell takes lead at Southern Amateur
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Harris English won’t successfully defend his Southern Amateur Championship title this week during the 106th edition of this storied tournament being played at Chenal Country Club’s Bear Den course.
However, his golf bag just might make it two in a row.
That’s because English’s former University of Georgia teammate Keith Mitchell is using the bag once carried by the current PGA Tour player during his college and amateur career.
And, after the second round Thursday at this year’s Southern Amateur, Mitchell, a junior at Georgia this coming season, is leading the 168-player field.
With back-to-back rounds of 68, Mitchell, of Chattanooga, Tenn., stands at 8-under 136, two shots clear of Hunter Howell, a fifth-year senior at North Carolina State from Raeford, N.C., and Brad Schneider, a recent Central Florida graduate from of Valrico, Fla.
Howell shows rounds of 71-67 while Schneider chalked up a pair of 69s. They are two strokes better than Ryan O’Rear (71-69) and three less than Alex Moon (71-70).
After two afternoon severe weather delays, the second round was unable to be completed. Those not finishing will return to the course first thing Friday morning to complete their round. Once all scores are in, the field will be cut to the low 66 scores and ties and those making the cut will begin the third round on both No. 1 and No. 10 tees.
Bobby Wyatt, a junior at Alabama and No. 1 in the Scratch Players World Amateur Rankings, stood at 5 under -- 4 under on the day -- with one hole left when play was stopped.
So, while English is competing in the Open Championship in England this week, his college golf back with his name etched on the front, is again making a prominent showing at the Southern Amateur.
Mitchell had his clubs stolen from his car in Athens, Ga., just before last week’s Players Amateur. He put together another set of mix-and-match variety, but he still needed a bag to carry them.
“I went into the (team) locker room (at Georgia) and his was the only bag there,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t think he or coach (Chris Haack) would mind so I took it to use.
“Who knows, maybe this will bring me some good luck since Harris won this championship last year,” Mitchell said.
Still, no matter whose name is on the bag, it’s the man using the clubs in the bag that makes the difference.
And, so far this week, that man is Mitchell, who earlier this year finished third at the Azalea Amateur, T-9 at the NCAA Championship and placed fifth at the Southeastern Am.
“I’ve really played solid both rounds,” Mitchell said. “There’s nothing that stands out in any one area, just being consistent.”
Starting on the 10th hole, Mitchell went 3 under on the day with birdies at 10, 13 and 15. He made bogey at 17, but came back with birdies at Nos. 5 and 6.
“It was nice to get things going early,” Mitchell said. “It helped get me in a bit of a comfort zone. There were a few errant shots along the way, but it’s hard to complain about a 68.”
Howell got off to an unbelievable start and put himself in the thick of things when he birdied his first five holes, Nos. 10-14. He gave two back with bogeys at 16 and 1, but came back with birdies at 3, 4 and 5. He finished out with a bogey at 6, a birdie at 7 and two pars.
“A pretty amazing start, that’s for sure,” said Howell, who had nine birdies and four bogeys on Thursday. “I chipped in from the rough, about 60 feet, at No. 10 to get started and then made 10-15 footers on the next four holes."
On his second nine he said he struggled a little, missing a couple of fairways and having a pair of three-putts.
“Overall, though, it was a very good, very solid round,” said Howell, who in mid-June tied for first at the South Carolina Open, losing in a playoff to Wake Forest men’s golf coach Jerry Haas.
Schneider’s round consisted of five birdies and two bogeys.
“All my birdie putts were from 15 feet or less and I made a couple of 6-8 footers for good par saves,” said the 5-foot-6, 150-pound Schneider, who was a quarterfinalist earlier this month at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
“Overall I just hit it well and putted well. Right now I’m just feeling good about my game,” said Schneider, the 2012 recipient of the Golf Coaches Association of America’s David Toms Award, which is presented to the men’s collegiate golfer who has overcome adversity to achieve collegiate excellence.
The best turnaround Thursday came from Jade Scott, a former Southern Junior champion from Daingerfield, Texas. After opening the tournament with an 8-over 80, Scott improved by 12 shots with a 4-under 68 that included three bogeys, five birdies and an eagle.