July 13, 2013

Noll, Watts at the top

KENNESAW — For the past three years, Dalton’s David Noll Jr. and Augusta’s Lee Knox have alternated Georgia Amateur titles, with Knox taking the titles in 2010 and 2012 and Noll grabbing it 2011.

That’s why it’s only fitting that Noll now sits atop the leaderboard at 4-under 138, after the conclusion of Friday’s second round at Pinetree Country Club.

Noll, who is bidding to become only the fifth player to win three or more titles in the 92-year history of the event, carded an even par-71 on the 7,108-yard course. He finished with three birdies and three bogeys after starting on the back nine, getting as low as 6-under overall through 14 holes before consecutive bogeys setbacks at Nos. 6 and 7 left him at 4-under.

Noll holds a three-shot lead over Chatsworth’s David Watts and Kennesaw State golfer Kelby Burton. Watts shot 72 on Friday, while Burton shot 70. Georgia golfer Mookie DeMoss (71) is even for the tournament.

Four others are 1-over, while seven are tied at 2-over.

While it’s no surprise that Noll has the overall lead, having won his first Georgia Amateur in 2003 at this same Pinetree course, defending champion Knox was one of 66 golfers who failed to make the cut.

Knox got off to a bad start Thursday with a 5-over 76, and things got even worse when he returned to shoot 78 on Friday.

Watts, on the other hand, feels as though he’s “in a groove.”

After opening his round with a bogey, the Murray County graduate followed up with four birdies over his next six holes and was 5-under at the turn while Noll was already in the clubhouse.

He extended the margin with a birdie at the par-3 12th, but ran into some trouble at 15 and 16 with a bogey and quadruple bogey, respectively.

While the ending wasn’t much to his liking, Watts likes the way he’s going around the course.

“My round was flawless in my eyes,” he said. “You’re going to get a bad hole now and again, but you don’t want to have a lot of bad holes. I hung in there with more birdies than bogeys and then got in trouble at 16.

“That happens, but, overall, I’m playing well and I’ve played well the past two days, and I’m near the top of the leaderboard.”

Watts admitted he hasn’t been in this position much before and looked forward to playing with Burton and Noll in today’s third round.

“The only real good tournament I’ve had was one during my senior year of high school,” Watts said. “I won that one by seven shots. I hadn’t played in a whole lot of other big tournaments, so this is a new feeling. I don’t look at the board when I’m out there. I keep my head down and try to minimize mistakes.

“I feel like I can play with anybody out there this weekend. I’m excited to go against Noll and Burton. It’s always fun to play against good players.”

Recent North Murray graduate Colby Hipp saw his chances to make the cut and hang around for the weekend disappear on the back nine Friday. Hipp was tied for 46th at 4-over after the first round and was comfortably inside of the cut after going out in 37 and standing at 5-over for the tournament. But his day soured as soon as he made the turn.

Hipp had three consecutive bogeys to start the back nine and then had a costly triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 15th. He had another bogey at 16 and finished with pars on the last two holes, but the damage was done. His 12-over-par total finished a stroke outside of the cut which fell at 11-over- par 153.

“My putting was terrible all week. It was’t just today,” said Hipp, who will play at Emory University in the fall. “It just happened to show up more today on that back nine. There were a lot of really, really short putts missed. It is always frustrating when your score doesn’t reflect how well you think you played. I’m very frustrated and very disappointed. It is golf. Hey, it happens.”

Chatsworth’s Tyler Mitchell had a second-round 81 to stand at 161, while Rocky Face’s Tucker Snipes’ second round 82 left him at 162. Dalton’s Robert Smith shot an 89 on Friday for a 171, and Rocky Face’s Ethan Hayes shot an 86 and finished at 173.

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