Brandon Haase or Tim Hamm might have been formidable by themselves in the championship flight on Saturday; together, they were nearly unstoppable, especially on the front nine at Mohawk Golf Club.
Haase made four birdies, and Hamm made three as the two-time defending champs jumped out of the crowd with a six-under 65 in the second round of the 61st annual Mohawk Member-Guest.
Last year, they made their big move on the back nine of the Saturday round. They didn’t wait so long this time, birdying four of the first five holes on their way to building a four-stroke lead over Michael Carroll and Lester Devitt heading into today’s final round.
Haase, 35, and Hamm, a 27-year-old Niskayuna High School graduate and two-time Division III All-America at Emory College, had one hiccup on the 150-yard par-3 No. 15, but otherwise played a clean, and at times brilliant, round.
It started on the first hole, a 433-yard par-4.
The two players practically fell over each other to get in the hole first, as each stuck his approach within a few feet of the cup, then they birdied No. 2.
Hamm almost chipped in on No. 4 and missed a short birdie putt, but Haase drained his.
On 5, Hamm made another strong approach shot, leaving himself six or seven feet below the hole, and after he put it in, both players pumped their fists.
The twosome continued to threaten for birdies.
Hamm hit a big drive on the 400-yard No. 7 to within 105 yards out on the extreme left side of the fairway, and although his approach spun back to the front of the green, Haase was already in great shape about 12 feet behind and to the right of the pin.
His putt missed a by a few inches to the right.
Hamm was dead-on with his irons over the last two holes of the front nine, sticking one close for a tap-in birdie on the 355-yard eighth, then nearly making eagle on No. 9.
His approach just missed the hole, rolled about a foot past, then spun back and just missed the flag again.
“We thought it was going in twice,” Haase said.
Haase left himself with an uphill putt on No. 10, and his putter answered the bell again.
There were two particularly difficult pin placements on the back nine, in the punch bowl on the right side of No. 12, and front left on the sloping No. 16.
On 12, a long par-3 with steep rough guarding the right side and a prevailing headwind, Haase hit first and was safe on the left side, which allowed Hamm to attack the pin, but he shoved his tee shot into the right rough.
They still nearly pulled out a birdie, as Haase’s downhill putt filtered beautifully down into the little hollow, died at the hole and somehow lipped out.
Haase and Hamm, a volunteer assistant coach on the DePaul University golf team who played in the stroke play portion of the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship last week in Norman, Okla., finally suffered a crack in their armor on No. 15.
Hamm missed the green, but chipped up within about four feet for a good chance to save par, so Haase took a run at his birdie putt from above the hole, and although it just missed to the right, it rolled way past the hole.
Hamm missed his par putt, slapping his putter face, and Haase also missed on the come-backer.
With three holes left, there was still time for a little more magic.
Haase missed an eight-foot birdie attempt on 16, but just to be in that position was a small victory, since his drive wound up in the trees to the right, with his ball resting on a root.
Against advice from his father, Hank, Haase punched it out, clipping some leaves, and the ball wound up pin high, prompting Hamm to ask, “How’d you do that?”
Haase got the bogey on 15 back by making a beautiful, high approach out of the right rough on No. 17 to set up another birdie, and a two-putt par on 18 left the defending champs with a 65 on a day when the greens were softened by overnight rain, and a day after they shot a 73 in the first round to trail Neil Golub and Mike Gifford by two strokes. Golub and Gifford shot 75 on Saturday to fall back to fifth.
Carroll and Devitt, playing in the group behind Haase and Hamm, had birdies on nos. 4, 7 and 8, but gave one back on 12 and finished with a 70, the only other group to shoot under par.
Brandon Haase-Tim Hamm, 65-139; Michael Carroll-Lester Devitt, 70-143; Scott Kelly-Adam Boghosian, 72-144; John Nolan-Jay Gargiulo, 73-144; Neil Golub-Mike Gifford, 75-146; Michael Trunzo-Keith Gillespie, 148; Bill Sweet-Jim Gifford, 74-150; Joe Nolan-Eric Minkiewicz, 77-150.
This morning’s tee times
9:30 — Joe Nolan-Eric Minkiewicz, Bill Sweet-Jim Gifford. 9:40 — John Nolan-Jay Gargiulo, Michael Trunzo-Keith Gillespie. 9:50 — Scott Kelly-Adam Boghosian, Neil Golub-Mike Gifford. 10 — Brandon Haase-Tim Hamm, Michael Carroll-Lester Devitt.
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