Mass. Junior: McLaughlin takes lead

HAVERHILL, Mass. (Aug. 9, 2011) -- Under dryer and windier conditions on Tuesday, Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner GC) continued his consistent and steady play to post a two-day total of even par 144.

He holds a two-shot lead heading into the third and final round of the 2011 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship, which is being held at Renaissance Golf Club.

Following the second round of play, the 120-player field was reduced to the low 50 scorers and ties. Those competitors will return to Renaissance Golf Club on Wednesday to compete in a third and final round. This year's cut line fell at 18-over par 162.

McLaughlin, the 2009 winner of this event, was four strokes back of the leader following day one, but on a day when the leader struggled McLaughlin came through with another solid round that featured four birdies and four bogies.

"It was a little windier out there today which made the course dryer as the day went on," said McLaughlin. "The course was still softer than average and there were a lot of front hole locations which made it easier to score."

The senior at St. John's Prep (Danvers) was solid out of the gates and was 1-under par through his first eight holes thanks to a birdie on the 531-yard, par 5 5th hole. Although he gave one back with a bogey on the 9th hole to make the turn at even par, he made birdie on two of his next five holes and was looking strong with just four holes to play.

First, on the 374-yard, par 4 11th hole he sent a wedge approach to eight feet. He then - on the 506-yard, par 5 14th hole - got up and down for birdie.

"I played about the same as I did yesterday," said McLaughlin. "I was 2-under through 14, but I gave a few back coming in which I wasn't thrilled about."

He made three straight bogies - on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes - but he finished with a birdie on the 18th hole to secure his spot atop the leaderboard. First-round leader Mickey Werenski (The Orchards GC) did not fare as well on Tuesday as he carded a 10-over par 82 to drop to T10 overall.

On Wednesday, McLaughlin will have to contend with a strong group of players who all improved on day two. Standing in a tie for second place with scores of 2-over par 146 are Ben Balter (Willowbend) and Zach Schuster (Pine Oaks GC), while Nick Rodriguez (Cyprian Keyes GC) is four strokes back.

Included in a group of five players at 5-over par 149 is Connor Murphy (Hyannis GC), who carded the day-low score of the day on the course's back nine.

Murphy - who was T13 following a 4-over par 76 on Monday - posted a 3-under par 33 on that back nine to improve his chances on Wednesday. He made the turn at 4-over par 40 this afternoon and was quickly slipping down the leaderboard. However, back-to-back birdies on the 10th and 11th holes set the tone for the rest of the round.

"I struggled with my putting on the first day but I learned a lot about the course," said Murphy, a senior at Bishop Stang High School. "I started to make some putts on the back and overall I felt good out there."

He made a 15-foot slider for birdie on the 10th hole and then sent his approach to three feet on the 11th hole. He just missed an eagle putt on the 14th and then left himself a six footer for birdie (which he made) on the 16th hole.

Perhaps just an important, Murphy managed to get up and down from 30 feet off the green on the 175-yard, par 3 17th hole (he made a 7-foot putt) to save par. His only miscue on that back nine was a bogey on the 18th hole.

"I feel confident going into the final round," said Murphy. "My ball striking and putting has been better so I feel good... I just need to make some birdies."

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