• 43°

Kerns still among Ohio Am leaders

By RUSTY MILLER

AP Sports Writer

 

WORTHINGTON — Bill Williamson was buzzing down I-71 Wednesday afternoon and talking golf.

He had just shot the day’s low round, a 5-under 67, to grab a share of the lead with Dublin’s Nathan Clark midway through the 106th Ohio Amateur championship. Now he was hustling home to Cincinnati to be with his wife and 16-month-old daughter.

“To win the Ohio Amateur would certainly be a thrill,” said Williamson, who finished second two years ago to 16-year-old Michael Bernard, the tournament’s youngest winner.

Not wanting to jinx himself, he quickly added, “But we’re way ahead of ourselves even discussing that.”

It’s clearly too early — and there is far too much traffic near the top of the leaderboard — to even begin dreaming that dream.

The 35-year-old attorney doesn’t play that much competitive golf. It’s clear that winning the Ohio Am, the most prestigious title in the state with past winners such as Arnold Palmer, John Cook and Ben Curtis, is his fondest wish.

“I try to prepare myself for three or four events a year and one of them is this,” said Williamson, who started the day tied for 25th but climbed past almost everybody by posting seven birdies against two bogeys at Brookside Golf & Country Club.

Clark, a 26-year-old who plays at Lindsey Wilson College, had a 70 and joins Williamson at 5-under 139 at the tournament’s midpoint.

He said he has been thinking his way around the course.

“My biggest thing, the reason I’ve been playing well, is making sure I haven’t been getting out of position,” he said. “I’d rather hit the green and leave myself 20 feet than try to go for a pin and shortside myself. That’s why I’ve been playing so well — I’ve been playing smart.”

A shot back was first-round leader Nathan Kerns of Ironton, who had a 74 on the heels of his opening 66.

He said his problems didn’t stem from nerves because he was on top.

“It was the first round. It was a good start; that’s all that adds up to,” he said. “There’s still three rounds to go.”

He conceded that hanging just a shot off the lead, though, was a prime spot.

“I’m happy with my position,” said the Marshall University player. “The hardest round of golf to play is the one after you’ve played a very good round. Because everybody’s looking at you like you’re supposed to do it again. The pressure’s there, that’s for sure.”

Now that pressure will be on Williamson, who has found a novel way of letting go on the course.

“If you focus on the result, whether or not you make the putt, that adds pressure,” he said of his approach the past few weeks. “So I’m able to just go through my routine and do what I can do, which is to hit the putt solid. I just try to make a solid strike on the middle of the putter face and then whether it goes in — you hate to say this — but you don’t really care. Because you’ve done everything you can.”

Recent Ohio State grad and golfer Alex Redfield, still mulling when he’ll give up his amateur status, shot a 72 and was at 141.

“I haven’t exactly decided when I’m turning pro but I’m going to do it when I feel like my game’s ready,” he said.

Asked what areas he needed to improve before the next level, he said, “You just have to hit the ball closer with your shorter clubs, the wedges, and give yourself more looks at birdie.”

Tied for fifth and three shots back at 142 were a pack of current or recent collegians: Mac McLaughlin (Virginia) of Shaker Heights, Matthew Gerard (Xavier) of Rocky River, Kyle Kmiecik (Kent State) of Kent and Scott Thompson (Wright State) of Miamisburg — along with Matt Beckett, a 39-year-old member at Brookside.

Another member, former Ohio Stater Kevin Grabeman, led the pack at 143. Stephen Anderson, the 1990 Ohio Amateur winner, was at 144, with Bernard — now an 18-year-old who will play at Ohio State this fall — at 145 and defending champ Korey Ward at 147.

The 144-player field was cut to the low 60 and ties. Missing the cut were two-time past champion Robert Gerwin II along with 1987 winner Peter Hammar and 1997 champ Andrew Montooth.

Before the round began, Michael Kelley was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard. He was one of 24 players to shoot subpar rounds (he had a 70) in the first round. Only 14 broke par in the second.