For the fourth straight year, the City of Aiken Amateur Championship was held at Aiken Golf Club, and for the fourth straight year, the course acquitted itself as host.
This time, it was for the toughness of the rough as much as the aesthetics of the layout.
“If you hit it in the rough, you’re going to have to try to play for par,” said Bo McCullough, one of the competitors and organizers for the event. “You’re not going to make any birdies out of the rough.”
McCullough shot a 71 and tied for second with Ryan Lentz and Ron Schroder behind Chad Meldrum, who shot a 68 for a three-stroke lead after one of two rounds. That included an eagle on the roughly 480-yard, par-5 13th hole.
Meldrum said he hit a “good drive down the middle” and had about 165 yards left but missed the green. That’s not the traditional way to bag an eagle on a par-5, but Meldrum managed it anyway.
“I just pulled my second shot, missed the green to the left and hit a really good chip that went in the hole,” he said.
Other than that and a birdie on No. 10, it was mostly pars for Meldrum, who said that recovering from less-than-ideal approach shots was the biggest key to his 18-hole lead.
“When I missed greens, I got it up and down,” he said.
Meldrum said that getting all his scoring done after the turn was nothing new at Aiken Golf Club. Despite having two of the club’s three par-5s, the back nine is more than 200 yards shorter than the front.
“The back nine’s my strength out here,” Meldrum said. “I try to get through the front nine even par or better, and then the back nine, I do hit it a long way so I can get it up around the green from some of those holes, and then I rely on my short game.”
Meldrum leads the way for the men’s draw, but there are four other gender or age groups competing for their own championship, not to mention the lower flights of the men’s division. Glen Hurt and Billy Rangos led the senior men at 74, and Dick Korzen and Nick Walker shot 70 to pace the super seniors. Alex Skiff shot a 77 to lead the junior boys.
South Aiken freshman Anna Freeman was playing with defending ladies’ champion Julia Fountain and took the lead for the ladies at the halfway point with an 81 while Fountain shot an 84.
Freeman was excited about her result and said she was feeling confident after a solid putting performance.
“I’ve always just been really good at reading the greens,” she said.
That’s saying something because the men’s overall leader cited the greens as one of the most difficult parts of the course.
“It was awesome,” Meldrum said. “The greens were tough, the pins were tucked in some difficult positions, and it was just a tough day.”
Defending champion Brian Quackenbush, who beat McCullough in a 12-hole playoff a year ago, shot a 74. Patrick Cunning, winner of the first two City of Aiken Amateur Championships, shot a 72.
Meldrum, McCullough and Schroder will finish things up today with a 2 p.m. tee time. Play will begin with threesomes, except for the day’s opening twosome at 8 a.m.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.