Dan Woltman is making the most of his first venture into southwest Kansas and competing in the 39th Southwest Kansas Pro-Am.
Nick Mason and Derek Tolan, two Denver natives who have plenty of experience in the Pro-Am, are right in the thick of the chase for the $20,000 first-place check.
That’s the quick synopsis after 36 holes Saturday of the scheduled 54-hole event for professionals, who completed play at The Golf Club at Southwind and Buffalo Dunes Golf Course.
Sunday’s final round, in which only the professionals will be competing, gets under way at 9 a.m. at Southwind.
Woltman, a native of Beaver Dam, Wis., who found his way to the Pro-Am via a recommendation from the Adams Golf Pro Tour officials, shot his second consecutive 67 Saturday at Buffalo Dunes, which is 5-under-par, to go with his 4-under-par matching score on Friday at Southwind, to stand at 9-under-par 134.
That gives him a narrow lead over Mason, who shot a 66 at Southwind to go with his opening 69 at Buffalo Dunes, to sit at 135. Tolan, the defending champion who shared the first round lead with Woltman, shot a 69 at Buffalo Dunes and stands two shots back at 136. He shared that third spot with Oklahoma City’s Logan McCracken, who has fired rounds of 70-66 at Southwind and Buffalo Dunes.
For Mason, Sunday will be his third attempt at winning, having held the lead twice in the Pro-Am, but not being able to close the door on the field in the final round.
But he’s put himself in position and will be paired with Woltman and Tolan for the final 18 holes.
“I’ve been struggling a bit lately, so I knew when I got back to Garden City that things could change,” Mason said after his 36-30 back nine/front nine tour of Southwind. “Not much was happening on that back 9 (first 9 of the day)…it’s such a tough stretch of holes coming in.”
But then something clicked for Mason, who said he has abandoned his last four-month ritual of lifting weights, eating healthier foods, but saw his game suffer. Now, he’s back to the cheeseburger routine and no workouts and his pinpoint accuracy off the tee and short game touch has returned.
“I can’t really explain it, but my game had really gone away,” Mason said. “The golf courses here just set up for me. I have to admit that now after playing here so many times and having some success.”
Mason’s game plan is quite simple for Sunday’s final round — keep making birdies.
“The guys out here never stop making birdies, so you just have to keep going lower and lower,” he said. “I think in the past I just thought if I made pars, that would be good enough, but it hasn’t worked out that way. So you just have to play good golf and make the putts.”
Woltman began his round on the No. 10 hole at the Dunes, making bogey for a repeat start from Friday’s round. He answered with birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th holes and nailed another at the 18th to turn in 3-under 33. On the front 9, he birdied the third, fourth and sixth holes, finishing with a bogey on the par-4, 9th, his last hole of the day.
“After that bogey, I kind of got it going,” Woltman said. “I missed only a couple of fairways and hit a bunch of good shots. There’s still a lot of golf left.”
Tolan, who is out of the lead for the first time since the start of the 2017 Pro-Am, will be looking to join Steve Jones as the only player to win consecutive Pro-Am titles. Jones did it in 1983 and 1984, but nobody has been able to repeat over the past 34 years.
Note: The long drive contest on Friday for amateurs resulted in HJ Swender hitting a drive 281 yards to win the title. Grant Elpers at 271 yards was second.
On the amateur side of the two-day competition, the five-man team of HJ Swender, Herb Swender, Tom Mikulka, Jim Orr and Austin Swender shot a 57 Saturday at Southwind to go with their 55 at Buffalo Dunes to finish at 31-under-par 112. That was one shot ahead of two teams — Kevin Colvin, Ryan Cameron, Westin Weeast, Steve Chambers and Barry Ingalls, and Andy King, Trevor Watkins, Brady Eakes, Nick Hatcher and Chad Magner.
Brett Marshall can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.