Besler best through 2 at the NTO

Sports

Besler best through 2 at the NTO

The defending and three-time champion is just 2 strokes back

With a steady-as-she-goes performance through two rounds, Brad Besler’s back on top at the Navajo Trail Open.

But there’s quite a pool of sharks lined up behind him, looking for a chance to strike in the final 18 holes.

Besler followed Friday’s 68 with a 67 on Saturday to get to 7 under and lead the field heading into today’s final round at Hillcrest Golf Club.

“Had a bunch (of putts) just burn the hole (Saturday). ... I just played smart and hit good quality iron shots,” Besler said.

The Blessing, Texas, native had the lead late in the final round a year ago before Micah Rudosky rallied to claim the championship. In fact, Besler held a two-shot lead at the 16th tee before the Cortez pro battled back.

“I thought about that,” Besler said with a laugh after Saturday’s round. “I think I’ll just do the same thing I did last time. The guy who won just hit good shots, and my putter let me down toward the end, and that’s one thing I’ve worked on.”

This year, Besler said he doesn’t plan to change up his final-round approach, instead looking for better execution and to make a few more putts. He said he just narrowly missed a handful in Saturday’s round before executing a nifty putt on the final hole, No. 9, to save par after driving wide of the green on the par three.

Holding off the rest of the field likely won’t be easy despite a two-shot advantage, given the quintet at 5 under. Rudosky, a three-time champion, again is in contention after carding a 2-under 69 on Saturday, while Round 1 leader Jim Knous opened with a birdie on No. 10, had a nice par save after his drive went awry on No. 11 and was 1 under Saturday after shooting a 4-under 67 on Day 1.

University of Colorado product Kane Webber stayed steady, finishing with a par on the ninth and following Friday’s 69 with a 68 to sit at 5 under, while fellow former CU golfer Derek Tolan shot a 68 of his own to move to 5 under.

University of Houston alumnus Ricky Romano followed suit, also carding a 68 to get to within two of Besler.

The round of the day, however, belonged to Jeffrey Franks. The former University of Wyoming golfer birdied his first three holes and carded a 66 to move within three shots of the lead. He joined Richard Gaona at 4 under.

It marked a six-shot turnaround from Friday for Franks, who recently finished 10th in the U.S. Open Local Qualifier in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“I guess I just got off to a hot start (Saturday). ... Wish I would’ve done a little better on the front (nine), but 66 I can’t complain about out here,” Franks said.

For Franks, it was an encouraging sign as he moves forward with his career. After playing sparingly for the last nine months and working for golf equipment company TaylorMade, Franks said he’s accrued enough sponsors to return to playing golf full-time and hopes to earn his tour card at the PGA Tour’s Q School.

Perhaps one of the reasons for Franks’ turnaround was the conditions in the morning at Hillcrest. The pros, who started in the afternoon Friday, began play at 7:54 a.m. Saturday, and Franks said he found the conditions much more amenable. The pros will tee off this afternoon for the final 18.

“A little more receptive greens, just a little softer, that’s about it. Speed’s always up,” he said.

Besler tried his hand at Q School recently, falling short of earning his card. But since then, he said, he’s played well, a trend he hopes to continue today.

“I’ve been playing pretty solid this year, and I guess my motto is to just take it one hole at a time, one shot at a time,” he said.

Ryan Hogue shot a 69 to get to 2 under, while former champions Luke Tanner (Fort Lewis College alumnus) and brothers Bobby Kalinowski and Tom Kalinowski (Durango High School alumni) are at 1 under, along with Ron Faria, Klinton Krieger and Steve Schneiter.

Former DHS and FLC golfer Devin Schreiner, who entered the day one shot out of the lead, shot a 77. Schreiner’s former FLC teammate, Gavin Lyons, is the low amateur at even par.

rowens@durangoherald.com

Navajo Trail Open

Professional Flight
1. Brad Besler 68-67—135
T2. Derek Tolan 69-68—137
T2. Jim Knous 67-70—137
T2. Kane Webber 69-68—137
T2. Micah Rudosky 68-69—137
T2. Ricky Romano 69-68—137
T7. Jeffrey Franks 72-66—138
T7. Richard Gaona 69-69—138
9. Ryan Hogue 71-69—140
T10. Bobby Kalinowski 69-72—141
T10. Klinton Kreiger 70-71—141
T10. Luke Tanner 69-72—141
T10. Ron Faria 70-71—141
T10. Steve Schneiter 73-68—141
T10. Tom Kalinowski 71-70—141
T16. Jeff Roth 71-71—142
T16. Matt Rutledge 73-69—142
T16. Mike Northern 70-72—142
T16. Tyson Shinaut 71-71—142
T20. Dal Daily 75-69—144
T20. David Muttitt 75-69—144
T20. Jeremy Lederer 71-73—144
T20. Luke Symons 74-70—144
T24. Devin Schreiner 68-77—145
25. Shea Sena 71-75—146
T26. Jay Synkelma 75-72—147
T26. Scott Gaines 70-77—147
T28. Gabriel Alcala 76-72—148
T28. Jared Butler 73-75—148
T28. Miguel Griego 76-72—148
31. Keenan Holt 77-75—152
T32. Brady Wilson 79-74—153
T32. Larry Webb 77-76—153
34. Elmer Amaya 79-75—154
35. Bradley Condon 81-74—155
36. Jim Fiala 79-77—156
37. Blaise Roth 78-81—159
38. Kiernan Mattson 83-79—162
39. Bud Andersen 87-85—172
40. Eric Regall 80-WD—WD
Durango Herald

Besler best through 2 at the NTO

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Jim Knous wasn’t quite as sharp as he was Friday when he fired a 67, but his second-round 70 was good enough to put him in a five-player tie for second place at the Navajo Trail Open, two strokes behind leader Brad Besler.
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Jim Knous will look to rally from two shots back to win in his professional debut. The Colorado School of Mines graduate is at 5 under, two shots off the lead, heading into today’s final round of the Navajo Trail Open at Hillcrest Golf Club.
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Ricky Romano’s focus on the greens helped him card a 68 on Saturday, and he’s one of five players just two shots off the lead heading into the final round of the Navajo Trail Open.
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Defending champion Micah Rudosky chipped his way into contention again at the Navajo Trail Open. The three-time champion currently is 5 under and will play in the final group today.
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