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Karst keeps command after Round 2 at Ridgefields

STEVE WILMOTH, TriCitiesSports.com • Jul 8, 2017 at 9:47 PM

KINGSPORT — Three years ago, Eddie Karst became the youngest winner of the Ridgefields Invitational with a four-shot victory.

Karst, still a teenager and chasing his second championship, will take a three-shot lead into today’s final round of the 68th annual event at the Club at Ridgefields.

He followed his opening 68 with a 3-under-par 69 to sit at 137. Saturday’s round included six birdies and three bogeys.

“My ball-striking has been pretty solid,” Karst said. “I made some good putts out there today but had a couple of three-putts that killed me.”

Chasing Karst was the trio of Blake Howard, Lucas Armstrong and Carlson Cox, tied for second at 140. Armstrong and Cox, both former Volunteer High School and NCAA Division I golfers, had rounds of 4-under 68, and Howard shot 71.

Armstrong birdied three straight holes on the front nine and another on the back in his bogey-free round.

“The greens are rolling good and you can make some putts,” he said. “I’ve also had a few lip-outs.”

Armstrong finished second last weekend after a playoff at the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur, and he carried that momentum with him to Ridgefields.

“I’ve strung a lot of good rounds together here lately,” he said. “Hopefully I can get another good one Sunday.”

Cox, the Ridgefields champion in 2011 and 2013, is bidding for his third title despite fewer opportunities to play and practice in his post-college days. He found playing in a group with defending champion William Nottingham to be beneficial.

“I need somebody to follow like that,” Cox noted. “I only play two or three times a month and just hit it far.”

Cox and Nottingham birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 after making the turn at 2 under.

“I thought we were going to birdie the whole back nine,” Cox said. “It was fun playing with William. We kind of just fed off each other.”

Nottingham settled for a 69 and sat four shots off the lead at 141. First-round leader John Tyminski of Nashville struggled to a 75 to fall to sixth at 142.

Mark Halvorsen continued his torrid play and forged a four-shot lead in the senior flight. Following a 66 on Friday, Halvorsen fired a bogey-free 3-under 69 for a 9-under 135 total.

“Pretty solid round, just kind of grinded it out today,” he said. “I really didn’t get myself in any deep trouble.”

Three long, par-saving putts on Nos. 2, 14 and 18 allowed Halvorsen to dodge any major difficulties.

“I putted pretty well,” he added. “I just lipped out a few others. I hit a 30-footer on No. 14 and that kept my momentum going. And then saving par on the last hole was big, too.”

Cary Daniels had the low flight score of the day, 68, and shot up the leaderboard into second place, four strokes behind Halvorsen. The former Dobyns-Bennett athletic director got to 5 under through 13, but after perfectly placing his drive on the challenging 14th, he encountered his only real trouble in the round.

“I hit a tee shot right down the middle on the 14th and kind of relaxed because that’s a hard hole,” Daniels noted. “Then I started getting nervous and bogeyed Nos. 14 and 15 but luckily pulled it together and birdied No. 16.”

Jefferson County girls basketball coach Rick Sinard and defending Ridgefields senior champion Tim Dinwiddie were tied for third at 140.

“There’s enough really good players out there, so I’ve got to go out and get it done again tomorrow,” Halvorsen said.

“Mark is playing very well, though,” Daniels said. “But I can’t worry about him. I’m just going to go out and do the best I can and try to shoot as good as I can.

“I could shoot 80 Sunday just as easy as I shot 68 today.”

Randy Longcrier’s blistering 5-under 67 was eight shots clear of any other second-round card in super seniors, and he built a five-shot advantage over first-round leader Bob Ross.

The senior leaders tee off Sunday at 10:50 a.m., and the championship contenders go off at noon.