MANCHESTER, N.H. – David Bennett, PGA (CC of Vermont) transformed what he referred to as a mediocre start into a 36-hole lead with an electric run of five birdies in a six-hole stretch on Tuesday at Manchester Country Club in the second round of the New England PGA Section Championship.
Sitting two-over par through eight holes, Bennett ripped off four straight birdies starting with the par-5 ninth hole, and added another on the 14th en route to a back-nine 32 and a 2-under par round of 69. Bennett sits alone atop the leaderboard at 5-under par for the tournament after shooting 3-under 67 at Concord Country Club on Monday.
“It’s super fun. Everyone around me is excited and I just hope I play halfway decent tomorrow and give myself a chance,” Bennett said after his round. “This is what we play for, it’s what gets us going and I’m looking forward to a good day.”
2013 NEPGA Section Champion Shawn Warren, PGA (Falmouth CC) had an up-and-down start to his day on Tuesday. Warren bogeyed the first hole before eagling the second. He eventually settled down with a bogey-free back nine that included three birdies to post 4-under par 67.
“I was able to get a decent tee shot away and I had 205 into the wind, I hit a 5-iron to about six feet,” Warren said of his eagle on the par-5 second. “It was a nice way to right the ship after bogeying the first hole, to get right back on track. From there it was a little bit more even-keel.”
After an even-par first round at Concord CC on Monday, Warren, who played in the 2018 PGA Championship, is -4 for the tournament, just one stroke behind Bennett.
“It’s where I expect to be. It’s where I want to be going into the final round,” Warren said of his place on the leaderboard. “You have to put yourself in this position a few times until you’re able to understand what to do and how you’re going to feel and how to handle it. Going into tomorrow, my past experience is definitely going to be a big help.”
First-round leader Eric Barlow, PGA (Winchester CC) posted a 1-over par 72 at Manchester on Tuesday to get to 3-under par for the tournament. Sitting alone in third place, Barlow will join Bennett and Warren in the final group on Wednesday.
“I’ve been in this situation before, I’ve been fairly close to the lead going into the final round, so I’ve got a little bit of experience there and I should be pretty comfortable tomorrow,” Barlow said. “Mostly it’s just going to be playing the golf course and letting the outcome take care of itself. That’s all I can control.”
Another past NEPGA Section Champion, Kirk Hanefeld (Salem CC) will be in the penultimate group on Wednesday after his second consecutive 1-under par round. Hanefeld has three NEPGA Section Championships on his resume, winning in 2000, ’01 and ’03, and played in the final group in 2018. Bennett, Warren, Barlow and Hanefeld are the only players under par through two rounds.
The eventual champion will be forced to navigate a challenging closing stretch of holes on Wednesday at Manchester CC, beginning with the par-3 16th, which measures 219 yards from the championship tees. That’s followed by the 453-yard par-4 17th hole, with trouble bisecting the fairway, taking driver out of most players’ hands. Players must then reckon with large fairway bunkers and perhaps Manchester’s trickiest green on the 18th hole.
“16, 17 and 18 are brutal,” Warren said of the closing stretch. “You want to get where you’re going to go before you get to those, and then hopefully hold on.”
Sixty-six out of the 141-player field made the cut into Wednesday’s final round. Thirteen players from the Championship, including defending champion Rich Berberian who is already exempt, will advance to the 2020 PGA Professional Championship, where 20 spots in the 2020 PGA Championship, one of golf’s four Major Championships, will be up for grabs.
The New England PGA would like to thank the host facilities, Manchester CC and Concord CC, and host PGA Professionals Brian Moskevich, Jeff May, Brian Kelley, and Rich Thibeault.
The NEPGA Section Championship would not be possible without the support of partners Cadillac, Club Car, Omega, Titleist, Footjoy, PGA Tour, Nike, Golf Channel, Avidia Bank, and Pukka.