Locklear, Bass tied for RCGC lead after 36 holes

Chris Stiles Sports editor

			
				                                Chris Stiles | The Robesonian
                                Jamie Locklear putts on the 14th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.

Chris Stiles | The Robesonian

Jamie Locklear putts on the 14th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.

<p>Chris Stiles | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Ryan Bass tees off on the 13th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.</p>

Chris Stiles | The Robesonian

Ryan Bass tees off on the 13th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.

<p>Chris Stiles | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Brad Locklear putts on the 13th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.</p>

Chris Stiles | The Robesonian

Brad Locklear putts on the 13th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.

<p>Chris Stiles | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Scott Benton hits his approach on the 16th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.</p>

Chris Stiles | The Robesonian

Scott Benton hits his approach on the 16th hole in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club.

LUMBERTON — The last time Jamie Locklear was in contention to win the Robeson County Golf Championship sponsored by Dial Insurance, the players he works with as the Purnell Swett High School golf coach weren’t born yet.

But after a tournament-best round of 4-under 68 Saturday, the 50-year-old finds himself tied for the lead in the Championship Division entering the final round. He hasn’t had a chance to win on the final day of the tournament since 2000.

“It’s been a long time,” Locklear said. “It feels good to be back there again, in the hunt with the best golfers in the county. I like the challenge.”

Locklear and defending champion Ryan Bass are tied for the lead at 3 under par, three strokes ahead of first-round leader Scott Benton and five ahead of Brad Locklear.

Jamie Locklear entered the event after a hot summer that he called “the best golf of his life,” and has continued that strong play during the tournament.

“I’m now hitting fairways,” he said. “I’ve always been good around the greens, pretty good at getting up and down. But just knowing when you’re standing on the tee box that you’re going to keep the ball in play, that’s huge.”

An birdie on No. 3 was key for his early momentum, and a 12-foot par putt at No. 6 kept the round going in the right direction. After a bogey at No. 9, Locklear made birdie on holes No. 11, 13 and 15, and after a 3-under 33 on the back nine is now 5 under par on the second side for the tournament.

The course was dry on Saturday after dampness affected Friday’s round, but the wind continued to affect play. Locklear said that worked to his favor.

“I’m a low-ball hitter, I can keep it low, so it played to my advantage today,” he said.

Bass shot a 2-under 70, with an 1-under 35 on both nines. He chipped in for birdie on the first hole, and made birdies on holes No. 6, 11, 13 and 15.

“My putter saved me all day,” Bass said. “I didn’t hit the ball that good. I made a couple mistakes but all in all I like where I’m at.”

Bass won last year’s event at 7 under par, though the event was held in different conditions in July. Sunday he’ll be looking to be the first back-to-back winner of the tournament since Kyle Covington in 2015.

“I’ll have the same game plan to limit mistakes,” Bass said. “I haven’t done a great job at that. I’ve had a lot of birdies but a lot of bogeys too. As long as I do what I need to do, I’ll be OK.”

Benton shot a 2-over 74 after leading the tournament Friday, leaving him with an even-par total.

“I think three shots is definitely doable, if I can get a good round going and get some momentum going, I’ll be fine,” Benton said. “I don’t think I’ll I shot myself out of it.”

The four-time tournament champion started slow with a 2-over 38 on the front nine Saturday, but steadied himself with an even-par 36 on the second side to keep himself in contention.

“I didn’t really make any putts early, and just hit a couple of wild shots early,” Benton said. “I kind of got out of position some and made some early bogeys, and just couldn’t get any momentum to get the round turned around. It was one of those days.”

Brad Locklear got off to a bad start for the second straight day, but Saturday didn’t have as much success turning his day around and finished in 3-over 75. He is 2 over par for the tournament and five strokes off the lead.

“The only difference today was I didn’t find nothing, didn’t make many putts,” he said. “I kept missing greens and having to chip all day long, and when you’re chipping out here it makes it tough. I’ve just got to get off to a better start, got to putt better, and make more putts, it’s simple as that.”

Jamie Locklear, Bass, Benton and Brad Locklear will be paired together Sunday at 12:56 p.m.

Landon Lowry is fifth after a second consecutive round of 74, and begins the final round seven strokes back at 4 over par. John Haskins is sixth at 5 over par after a second-round 74 and nine-time tournament champion Kyle Covington is seventh at 6 over.

William Chavis II improved by 16 strokes from Friday to Saturday, with a second-round 82 after opening with 98. Jeff Slabe improved by 12 strokes, from 85 to 73, and shot a 1-under 35 on the front nine Saturday.

Steve Pippin shot even-par 72 for an 11-stroke gain from Friday’s 83. After shooting 81 Friday, Ian Locklear improved 10 strokes for a 1-under 71, Saturday’s third-best round; he is in eighth place at 8 over par and will play in the next-to-last group.

Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.