Howard, Wheeler share one-shot Texas Mid-Amateur lead
Jeff Howard (TGA photo)
Jeff Howard (TGA photo)

Chris Wheeler from Addison and Plano’s Jeff Howard finished the second round of the 2019 Texas Mid-Amateur Championship at Maridoe Golf Club early on Saturday afternoon at even-par 144. Wheeler poured in five birdies and shot 2-under 70, one of only two under-par rounds on the day. Howard, one of the overnight co-leaders, made four birdies and fired a 1-over 73.

During the next several hours, the top of the leaderboard lit up like a pinball machine. Maridoe members Rob Couture of Dallas and Marcus Jones from Argyle made moves early in their rounds and took turns holding the outright lead. There were three-way ties for the lead, and at one point all four talented mid-amateurs shared the lead together.

When all the dust settled on the second round, however, it was Wheeler and Howard who remained on top. They’ll share a one-shot lead headed into Sunday’s final round of the 54-hole Major Championship.

“I started out really bad yesterday with a quick double-bogey and followed that up with a bogey,” said Wheeler, the 2018 North Texas Player of the Year. “I immediately started playing for the center of the greens, trying to make pars. Pars are really good here. That just switched my mindset. If you sneak in a birdie here or there, that’s great. But pars are really good out here and that’s different than most courses we play.”

Lurking just one shot behind the leaders is the two-time defending Texas Mid-Amateur champion Colby Harwell from San Antonio. The 2017 Texas Player of the Year rolled in four birdies on the back nine Saturday and posted an impressive 2-under 70 for the round. Along with Wheeler, Harwell had the only red number on Saturday.

“It was just a battle all the way around today,” said Harwell, who in addition to his Mid-Amateur titles has won the Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play Championship twice (2017, ’19). “I left a lot of my putts in good spots on the greens where I could take a run at them. On top of that, I hit it pretty close a few times.”

Through 36 holes, Harwell sits at 1-over 145 and is alone in third place. He’s in position to become the first player to win three consecutive Mid-Amateur Championships since Texas Golf Hall of Famer John Grace won four straight times from 1991-94.

“I’m definitely thinking about it,” Harwell said of the potential three-peat after his round on Saturday. “Hopefully I’m not going to think about it too much until tomorrow when it’s over.”

Fourth place at 2-over 146 belongs to Jones, who led the tournament outright with four holes to play in the second round. Jones stumbled a bit coming in with three late bogeys, but he’s still in position to win championship with a strong final round. The same is true of Couture, who finished with a 4-over 76 in the second round. He was humming along until an uncharacteristic triple-bogey on his 14th hole derailed the momentum he had gained, but the 2011 Canadian Mid-Amateur champion can get back into contention with a Sunday charge.

Four players share sixth place at 6-over 150, including 2013 Texas Mid-Amateur champion Clay Hodge from Tyler, Keller’s Brandon Immel and Dallas residents Brad Mason and Tyler Thomas.

For the second straight day, the course average at Maridoe was north of 80. The field averaged 81.26 from 7,054 yards. Fifty-nine players made the 36-hole cut at 17-over 161.

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ABOUT THE Texas Mid-Amateur

Eligibility: Entries are open to male golfers with a USGA Handicap index of 8.4 or less, and who are 25 years of age or older by the first day of championship qualifying.

Format/Field Size: 54 holes of stroke play. At the completion of 36 holes the field is cut to the low 54 players and ties. The field is limited to 132 players.

Mid-Master Recognition: In addition to the overall champion, an award will be given to the low Mid- Master finisher. (Mid-Master – any player 40+ years of age)

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