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Mason's March: Denver native sole leader of Pro-Am

Published 8/10/2012 in Pro-Am

By ADAM HOLT

aholt@gctelegram.com

This isn't Nick Mason's first Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. But he's hoping this year could mark his first win in the event.

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Brad Nading/TelegramDenver, Colo., native Nick Mason follows through on a fairway shot Thursday on the ninth hole at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course during the second round of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. Mason's 36-hole total of 11-under-par 132 leads the Pro-Am by two shots.

Brad Nading/TelegramDenver, Colo., native Nick Mason follows through on a fairway shot Thursday on the ninth hole at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course during the second round of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am. Mason's 36-hole total of 11-under-par 132 leads the Pro-Am by two shots.

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Brad Nading/TelegramSteve Gotsche of Great Bend putts on the third green Thursday at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course during the second round of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am.

Brad Nading/TelegramSteve Gotsche of Great Bend putts on the third green Thursday at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course during the second round of the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am.

Mason retained the lead after Day Two, shooting a 4-under 68 at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course following his opening 64 on Wednesday for an 11-under-par 132 through 36 holes. Cole Howard, of Fort Worth, Texas, jumped from 11th to second, after shooting a 6-under 66 for the best round of the day.

A tough wind that seemed to pick up as the day wore on, combined with the Dunes' narrow fairways, brought the scores up a lot from Wednesday's opening round at The Golf Club at Southwind. Twenty-seven players shot under par on Wednesday, compared to just 13 on Thursday.

"Today was tough out here, man," Mason, a Denver native, said. "I know someone shot six under, but I felt like I played pretty good to shoot four-under today out here. The greens were as firm as they've ever been. They said no wind, but it blew, shoot, it blew 20, 25 mph. So it was a tough day, for sure."

Mason had four birdies and an eagle in his round and bogeyed two holes. After an uninspiring start, his eagle on the par-5 fifth hole helped get his round going.

"I hit it on the front of the green. I really didn't do much the first few holes, and I missed a couple birdie putts, I was kind of disappointed," Mason said. "But I made about a 45-footer for eagle to get my round going on the fifth hole. That kind of sparked everything."

After a bogey on No. 13, he would go birdie, par, birdie, birdie, par to finish out his round. He said his two bogeys were "dumb," one coming on a three-putt and another on a short putt.

As well as Mason played, Howard, who was one of the earlier golfers to finish Thursday, turned in a 6-under 66 that held up as the day's best score.

"I just played solid," Howard said. "I hit fairways and I hit greens, and gave myself a lot of looks. The putter got hot today and just made a couple long ones. Just tried to keep the momentum going the rest of the way in."

"I think Cole Howard today, he played in the U.S. Open, today he shot six under, which is an unbelievable round," Mason said. "I didn't think anyone could get four, maybe five. Props to him, that's a hell of a round."

Howard had seven birdies, and added an eagle on No. 5. If not for a double-bogey on No. 6, right after his eagle, he might be tied for the lead. He also bogeyed the par-3 eighth, but had four birdies on the back nine.

"I came up short of the green, and chipped it above the hole, above the pin location, that's the worst spot to be in," Howard said of his double-bogey. "Ended up three-putting it for a double. Which was OK, but I just had to put it behind me and keep going."

Roger Sloan, of Merritt, British Columbia, entered the day tied with Mason for the lead at 7-under, but fell victim to the wind in posting an even-par 72 at the Dunes, falling to fourth and four shots back.

"The wind was playing a little stronger today than it was yesterday, so it made the course a little more challenging, a little more demanding on tee shots and approach shots," Sloan said.

Sloan started on the back nine, and was 2-under going into the front nine, but ended up finishing with a bogey and double-bogey on No. 8 and No. 9 to finish his round.

"I hit it into the first cut of rough off the tee, and caught a flier into the wind over the green," Sloan said of his double. "And apparently, I found the gnarliest rough on the golf course and it took me a couple chip shots to get out of there. I was short-sided and tried to get too cute on my first chip shot, and unfortunately, when you don't pull it off, it brings a bogey into play. It's my fault for not taking my medicine today."

Sloan added that aside from his last two holes, he's been happy with how he's played.

All three pros agreed that the wind made Thursday's round tougher than Wednesday's. Just seven golfers shot under par on both days.

Mason, who likes the way he's been hitting the ball, said he looks forward to the wind picking up.

"I even like that more," he said. "Hitting it solid, you want the wind to blow as hard as possible. Looking forward to playing the next two days in some strong winds."

Will Osborne of Wichita Falls, Texas, jumped to third place after a 4-under 68 on Thursday, and has gone 67-68--135 to sit three shots back. Fergal Rafferty of Ireland was in fifth at 6-under 137, and Ryan Spears of Del City, Okla., was in sixth at 5-under 138. Three players were tied at 4-under, with another three tied at 3-under — including 2011 U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft.

The players started today's third round paired with their amateur teams, whom they'll play with for the final two rounds. Rounds three and four will be contested at both golf courses. The top 30 scores of the pros will play the Dunes today and finish at Southwind on Saturday.

The pros said they're excited to begin playing with the amateurs.

"That always loosens up the feel of the tournament," Howard said. "It's always nice to meet people when we travel around to these tournaments, and get to know people from the local areas. So I'm looking forward to the next couple of days."

Mason said he was hoping to be paired with a guy he's stayed with — and to make sure his lead after 36 holes holds up until the end.

"I've been coming to this tournament for six years now, and this is almost like a second home to me," Mason said. "I know everybody, I'm real good friends with Cole Wasinger (Dunes head golf professional). I know everyone in town. I have a great time here — I've always wanted to win it. I've been close a few times, and I'm hoping this is the year I can do it, that'd be nice. It's one of the three, four tournaments I want to win a year. I'm excited."

See results in Scoreboard, Page B2.

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