Ex-Ironton golfers at Ohio Amateur

Published 10:41 am Wednesday, July 13, 2011

KETTERING, (AP) — Every time Kevin Miller stood over a putt, the result was the same.

Off the green, from short range or from another area code, the ball always found the cup.

The Kent State junior shot a late 6-under 65 on Tuesday to forge a three-stroke lead at the 105th Ohio Amateur golf championship, with defending champion Michael Bernard adding one of the few subpar rounds at NCR Country Club.

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Ironton’s Nathan Kerns has a 75 and Tony Brown has an 82. Nathan will be a junior at Marshall. Tony is a former NAIA All-American for Shawnee State. Both played at Ironton High School.

Miller — who said his closest friends and Golden Flashes teammates know him for his accuracy off the tee and with irons — was stupefied as anyone by his career putting day.

“I was making everything,” said the Sugarcreek native, a state medalist on two state championship teams at Garaway High School. “My putter was red hot. I was making everything I looked at, even a couple of 30-foot-plus putts. That really helps.”

It got so that even Miller’s two playing partners were dumbstruck.

“They didn’t say much,” he said with a grin. “They were pretty much shocked.”

The hot and humid day started with little fanfare. Miller chipped in from 5 feet off the green on the second hole, but then made what he termed a sloppy bogey when he failed to get up and down at the third hole. But then he birdied the next three holes in typical fashion, nothing out of this world, before rolling in a 40-footer for birdie from the back of the green at the par-3 eighth hole as he turned in 32. He also birdied both par-3s on the back side, including a 35-foot bomb at the 15th.

The 65 matched the lowest round he’d ever shot, in the 2010 Ohio Publinx at Cook’s Creek just south of Columbus.

So beyond the pale was Miller’s putting that he was able to joke about it.

“I’m a pretty solid putter — but I usually don’t make my lag putts like I did a few times today,” he cracked.

Miller teed off in one of the final groups of the day after most of the top scores had already been recorded in the 144-player field.

Ashland University’s Jay Overy and Ohio State’s Logan Jones shot 68s and were tied for second.

Overy, a Grafton native who will be a senior at Ashland, came right out the gate to birdie the first two holes in a 68 that held the lead until Jones matched him later in the opening wave. Jones, who will be a sophomore at Ohio State, is from Dublin.

“I’ve been playing pretty well this summer. I haven’t played in a lot of tournaments, but I’ve been hitting the ball good,” Overy said. “I was struggling a little bit with my swing the past week but I figured by now it would come around. I just went out with a ‘see what happens’ kind of an attitude and it worked out pretty well today.”

Jones’ round was built around four birdies in a span of five holes, with a par at the eighth hole bookended on each side by birdies.

He said he felt ready to make a run at the lead.

“In previous years I may have thought I just want to make the cut, but this year I prepared really hard,” said Jones, playing in just his second Amateur. “I had that in the back of my mind. So I thought, if I’m the most prepared guy out here, then I have a really good chance of winning. I was more just trying to get lost in the details of the golf course and trying to play the course and not worry about winning or my score.”

Korey Ward of West Chester, who will be a freshman at Xavier, came next with a 69.

He didn’t have the opportunity to practice on the difficult course, which hosted the 1969 PGA Championship won by Ray Floyd.

“I was driving back from Virginia 10 1/2 hours,” Ward said. “I was in the Eastern Am. And so I just drove back yesterday and today I played.”

Bernard became the youngest player to win the event a year ago as a 16-year-old at Kirtland Country Club. He matched Wright State golf coach Pete Samborsky at 70.

“That’s definitely a good start, said the senior-to-be at Wayne High School in Huber Heights. “I hadn’t been playing too great in tournaments lately. I think I have been putting a little too much pressure on myself. I just went out with the attitude today that I’m just going to try and relax and not really care about what happens. I did a good job of that. I felt comfortable out there.”

Past champions Robert Gerwin II (73) and Andy Montooth (75) remained in contention.

The 72-hole medal-play tournament continues through Friday, with the field cut to the low 60 and ties after the second round and the low 40 and ties heading into the final round.