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Defending champ Lane bolts out to six-stroke lead at ETA

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 7, 2019 at 1:11 AM

ELIZABETHTON — Tyler Lane had a plan to stay aggressive heading into Saturday’s play at the William B. Greene Jr. East Tennessee Amateur golf tournament.

It paid off for the defending ETA champion, who fired the low round for the second day in a row at Elizabethton Golf Course. He finished with a 7-under 65 to give him a two-day total of a 12-under 132, six strokes ahead of nearest competitors Lawrence Largent and Nick Cohen going into Sunday’s final round.

Still, he explained his round got off to a rocky start.

“I hit a bad second shot on (hole No.) 1 and had to make a two-putt,” said Lane, the golf coach at Knox Bearden High School. “I had to hit about an eight-footer for bogey on 2 and that got me jumpstarted. I figured out my rhythm on hole 3, and after that I felt comfortable.”

It didn’t hurt that a rain shower came right before Lane’s round, making for ideal conditions. While most of his putts were under 10 feet, he ended the round with eight birdies and just one bogey.

“Between finding the fairways and greens and making a lot of putts, everything was clicking,” Lane said. “The key was to stay aggressive because the greens were receptive where you could shoot at the pins, even from the roughs. The rain definitely softened the course up, but the greens stayed really true. I just tried to get as close as I could to the greens and stayed aggressive on the putts.”

Johnson City golfer Cohen had a 5-under 67 to move into the second-place tie with Kingsport’s Largent, who carded a 68.

A group of five golfers — two-time ETA champion Cayman Ratliff, Blake Howard, Brandon Mathis, Matt DiBella and Joe Brooks — finished the day tied for third at 4-under 140.

With the majority of scores lower on Saturday than the previous day, the cut was at 149.

SENIORS LEADERS

Defending Seniors division champion Mike Wood of Franklin, N.C., shot a 1-under 71 in the second round to take a two-stroke advantage (140-142) over first-round co-leader James Fender of Limestone. Wood is 4-under after two rounds. Fender at 2-under is one stroke ahead of Johnson City’s Tony Gouge who shot a 71 for a two-round total of 143.

“The course is in really great shape. We had a little rain, and that slowed the greens down some,” Gouge said. “The greens have some firmness when you hit into them and are a good speed. I was a little tentative putting. If you’re putting uphill, you can hit putts. If you’re putting downhill, they can get away from you quick if you’re not paying attention. I wasn’t aggressive enough on the putts.”

Mark Atkins had the low round of the day for the Seniors with a 3-under 69. He leads the 50-54 group and is four strokes behind Wood in fourth place overall.

Volunteer High School basketball coach Mike Poe leads the 60-plus division by one stroke over Dean Batchelder from Elizabethton. The former Science Hill and David Crockett coach followed up an even-par 72 in his first round with a 3-over 75 Saturday.

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