After 18 rain-soaked holes for the second round of the 57th Navajo Trail Open on Saturday at Hillcrest Golf Club, Derek Tolan has begun to separate from the field.
Tolan, who was tied for the lead after the first round Friday, moved to 7-under-par 135 after posting a 3-under 68 Saturday. His 36-hole score of 135 has him three shots clear of Glenn Workman in second place.
The wet conditions presented a challenge for Tolan and the rest of the field, but what separated the Highland Ranch native was his ability to adjust to the way the course was playing, fire in close approach shots for good looks at birdie and limit mistakes that led to bogey.
“I thought the greens held perfectly – they didn’t get too wet and still held their speed,” Tolan said of the wet conditions. “I noticed it was a little hard controlling the distance of approach shots. I hit a couple approach shots that flew way too far because they had down-grain, wet lies, and I don’t know if the face (of the club) got wet and it just shot up. It was kind of hard to control distances, but the course held up phenomenal.”
After starting on No. 10 in the second round, as all the professionals in the tournament did, Tolan was 2 under at the turn. He moved to 3 under after a birdie at the par-5 third, and got to 4 under after making birdie from the sand on the short par-4 sixth.
But fortune was not on his side at No. 7.
After he smashed his tee shot over the trees of the dogleg right par-4 seventh, the ball settled into a small hole in the middle of the fairway. He struck his second shot cleanly trying to run it up to the back-left pin location, but the ball took a hard kick to the left and ended up in another hole behind a small hill to the left of the green. He finished with bogey.
“I had to kind of chase it up there, and I hit it perfect,” Tolan said of his second shot on No. 7. “It was one of the wildest kicks I’ve ever seen. It darted left off the green, and off the green it was in another hole, so I had to go up and over the hill out of another hole. It was kind of a bang-bang-bang situation where I hit a perfect tee shot, a perfect second shot and then just got a couple bad breaks in a row.
“It happens. I had some good ones, too, and obviously I’m not going to complain about those.”
Workman sits in second place at 138 after a 1-under 70 despite going out of bounds twice during the second round.
“I definitely grinded today,” Workman said. “At the beginning, I hit a ball out of bounds on 10 on my second shot and then hit a ball out of bounds on No. 17 on my second shot – both of them were 4-irons. So that didn’t feel too good.”
Light but steady rain fell throughout the round and left the course soft and receptive to low scores.
The low round of the day belonged to Durango’s Tom Kalinowski, who posted a 4-under 67 and moved to 1 under for the tournament. After pars on Nos. 10 and 11 to start the round, Kalinowski birdied the next three holes, dropped a shot on the par-4 16th, but got the shot back with a birdie on 17.
On his back nine, Kalinowski had birdies on Nos. 3, 6 and 8, with bogeys at Nos. 2 and 7.
Justin Bardgett, who was grouped with Tolan, fired a 3-under 68 to move to 2 under for the tournament. Justin Keiley shot 68, but said he missed a few putts he thought he should have made that could have gotten his score down to 64 or 65, and is at 1under for the tournament.
“It actually played pretty easy,” said Robert Kalinowski, who shot 69 on Saturday and is at 2 under 140 after 36 holes. “We had the rain that took some of the fire out of the greens, but I don’t think I made a putt over six feet in the last two days and I’m at 2 under. If I had a little more pace (putting) I think I could be with Derek. I know there are low rounds out there if you can get the putter going. The course is in great shape and it was there for the taking.”
While several players took advantage of the softer conditions, it wasn’t all birdies and pars for the field, as the daunting task of navigating the greens wasn’t any easier if approach shots missed in the wrong spots or players struggled off the tee box.
Wil Collins, who held the 18-hole lead with Tolan at 4 under, shot 1-over 72 on Saturday to drop him to four shots back and into a tie for third place. A big chunk of Collins’ trouble in the second round came on No. 17, where he took a triple-bogey 8 after he hit his tee shot out of bounds to the right, then put the ensuing tee shot after the two-stroke penalty into the water on the left.
Eddie Stewart, who posted his second consecutive under-par round with a 69 Saturday, is tied with Collins at 3-under par.
Eric Bradley, who was one shot off the lead after the first round, shot 4 over Saturday to move to 1 over for the tournament.
Bardgett, Billy Comeaux and Robert Kalinowski sit in a tie for fifth at 2-under 140, followed by Tom Kalinowski, Keiley, Jimmy Makloski and Doug Rohrbaugh at 1-under 141. Dusty Fielding and Sam Saunders are at even-par 142.
The first groups of professionals will tee off on Nos. 1 and 10 for the final round at 1:50 p.m. Sunday. Collins, Stewart, Tolan and Workman will make up the final grouping for Sunday’s third and final round. They’ll step to the first tee at 2:22 p.m., with everyone trying to chase down Tolan.
“I just have to go out there, hit golf shots and hope I come out on top,” Workman said. “Derek Tolan is a great player, we’re going to have some fun tomorrow.”