It was a solid day for a trio of Houston Academy golfers, who led the local competitors during the second round of the 15-18 age division of the Press Thornton Future Masters on Friday.
A day after shooting a 4-over 74, Jake McDonald utilized some strong wedge play and an eagle to fire a 67 and comfortably make the cut going into Saturday’s final round.
His HA teammates, Matthew Streitman and Emmett Lee, mirrored each other.
Streitman, a day after firing a 69, kept up the consistent play with an even-par 70. Lee, who shot 73 on Thursday, also came in at 70.
Rehobeth product Brantley Scott, who shot a sizzling 66 during the first round, didn’t fare as well on Friday in coming in at 2-over 72. He still ranks tops among the local golfers with a 138 and remains in the mix of contenders at six shots back of leader Jack Turner going into the final round.
McDonald credited his short game for success in leading the locals on Friday.
“My wedges were super good today,” McDonald said. “They were something else. I got new wedges three weeks ago and I’ve got them really dialed in, so that saved me today. I really didn’t hit my driver well again. I only hit four fairways today, but my wedges made up for it.”
The eagle came on hole No. 7, a 399-yard par 4.
“I killed my drive,” McDonald said. “I had 123 in. The pin was super tucked, so I kind of wanted to be right of the pin to have a good putt for birdie. When I hit it, it started drawing and it slam-dunked straight in.”
McDonald made the turn at 1-under and kept on a roll with birdies on 10 and 11 to go to 3-under. He bogeyed 12 to go back to 2-under, but birdied on 15 after hitting a wedge real close.
On 16 he made par, but McDonald said it may have been his best hole of the day.
“I hooked my drive, punched out and hit a wedge up to a foot and tapped in for par,” McDonald said. “I honestly don’t believe I hit it any better today than yesterday, things just clicked a lot more obviously.”
Streitman got off to a red-hot start on the front nine by making birdie on four of the first six holes — 1, 3, 4 and 6.
“I hit a really good drive down there to start out with, was about 65 yards out and stuck it within three feet and tapped in for birdie,” Streitman said of the first hole. “On 2, I actually pulled it left and got a good break — wasn’t quite in the water — and hit a 46-degree in there about 30 feet and two putted (for par). On No. 3 I hit a 7-iron from like 172 and it was a bit into the wind. I stuck it about 8 or 10 feet and made the putt.”
After a birdie on 4, a par on 5 and a birdie on 6, Streitman got into trouble for the first time with a double-bogey on No. 7.
“On 7 I hit it in the rough left and had about 185 yards in, which is a pretty hard 7-iron,” Streitman began. “I hit that out of the rough and completely flew the green — one hop and hit the fence that was OB (out of bounds), kicked back inbounds and put me in a bush. I was taking an unplayable. I hit it up there and two-putted and made double.
“It was just a bad break, but I couldn’t sweat it too much. I only hit one bad shot and that was my tee shot. The shot that cost me two shots on that hole wasn’t a tee shot.”
Streitman rebounded with a par and birdie to make the turn at 2-under.
Trouble came again on the No. 10 tee.
“On this one I flared it out to the right a little bit,” Streitman said. “I was happy to be in bounds, but I get up there and it’s on a root, so I barely could get a club on it. But I didn’t want to take an unplayable because I had already done that, so I just tried to chip it out into the fairway, and then got behind another tree, which was not a good break.”
Facing an almost impossible shot, Streitman decided against just punching out. He also knew there was a chance his club would come in contact with the tree on his swing.
“I was kind of thinking my club was going to break, I’m not going to lie,” Streitman said. “I was at a point to where I was done messing around. I was kind of like, ‘If this club breaks, we’ll move on.’ It almost did. It hit the tree but it didn’t bend or anything.”
The shot was a nice one that landed near the front bunker. Streitman then chipped to the fringe of the green and two-putted for bogey on the par 5 hole.
Streitman played par golf the rest of the way with the exception of a bogey on 13. He dropped a 12-footer for par on 18.
Lee, while scoring better in Round 2, wasn’t thrilled with his score.
“I’ve never been so disappointed in an even-par,” Lee said. “I hit the ball really well. I only missed four greens, but my putter was just the same as yesterday.
“I had a bad three-putt on 8 for a bogey. I had a bad three-putt on 10 for par. So, you know, that could have been an eagle I turned into a par. Then I go ahead and bogey 11, too.
“I mean, I gave myself the chances.”
Lee won’t hold back in the final round.
“I don’t have anything to lose now,” Lee said. “It’s my last competitive tournament of my career, so just go out rip a drive on every hole and make as many birdies as I can.”
Four other area golfers competed on Friday: Adam Kilpatrick of Andalusia (72-74—146), Griffin McCrary of Troy (79-77—156), Gibson Charlton of Enterprise (80-83—163) and Jay Palmer of Donalsonville, Ga., (87-80—167).