By Cam Huffman
Brandon Reece saw his chance at a third BNI Memorial Golf Classic championship slip through his fingers last year on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs. Today, when the final round of the 54-hole tournament takes place on that same course, he’ll have a chance to erase that frustration.
The insurance agent, who now lives in Raleigh, N.C., shot a 3-under-par round of 69 Sunday at Grandview Country Club. Paired with his 68 Saturday at Brier Patch Golf Links, Reece is 7-under for the tournament and holds a three-stroke lead over Michael Powers as all competitors will end with 18 holes at the Cobb Course today.
“I played pretty well,” said Reece, who grew up in Beckley and played college golf for the University of Charleston. “I didn’t hit it really well, but I made some nice par putts and was able to save a pretty good round.”
Sunday’s round included five birdies — four over the course of the first 10 holes and the final one on No. 16. Bogeys on a pair of par-3s — Nos. 7 and 15 — were all that kept him from opening up a more comfortable advantage.
“They’re both really pretty easy holes, to be honest with you,” said the 2006 and 2007 BNI champion. “I just had a bad swing on No. 7. I pulled it a little bit, and I think it rolled down the cart path.
“On 15, I hit a pretty good shot. The wind just took it a little bit and it went over the green. I couldn’t get up-and-down.”
Powers, who lives and works in Huntington, and briefly went to Marshall before joining the military, followed up a 68 Saturday at Grandview with a 72 Sunday at Brier Patch in the alternating course format. He’s 4-under par for the tournament, one stroke clear of Brandon Waters.
Powers has already captured the Senior Division honors for players from 50 to 59 years of age. He defeated six-time BNI champion Mike Mays and four-time champion Greg McGraw by three shots to take home that honor, awarded only for the first two rounds of play.
Mays and McGraw are part of a group of four golfers — which also includes 2008 champion Alan Wharton and 2012 West Virginia Amateur runner-up Winston Canada — six shots back at 1-under-par for the tournament.
Waters, who was under par both days with rounds of 71 and 70, is still clearly in the hunt. The Summersville native is just four shots back at 3-under after 36 holes.
“I hit the ball good,” said Waters, who had four birdies on his second round. “I kept it in play. I need to make some more putts, but it was good.”
Oak Hill’s Aaron Kemlock is alone in fourth place at 2-under after avoiding trouble for two consistent rounds.
“I made a lot of putts,” said Kemlock, who posted back-to-back rounds of 71 at the two very different courses. “I didn’t miss a putt under eight feet all day, and in two days I’ve hit 32 greens in regulation. But when I missed them, I missed them bad.”
Those misses included a couple of wayward shots that kept Kemlock from really putting some pressure on Reece.
“I was 4-under for the round, 5-under for the tournament going into 15 (Sunday at Grandview),” said Kemlock. “I hit it in the hazard and made double bogey. Then I blew my drive right on 16 and made bogey there.”
Those eight golfers are the only ones under par for the tournament — presented by major sponsor First Community Bank and also sponsored by Lewis Automotive — although four are at even-par, including Kelly Shumate. The Greenbrier’s director of golf course maintenance carded a 2-under 70 Sunday at Grandview after a 74 Saturday at Brier Patch, his “home course.”
The final round at the challenging Cobb Course — which includes 51 sand bunkers, eight lakes and more than 200 feet of elevation change — will begin with tee times this morning at 7:30 a.m.
The final group of Reece, Powers, Waters and Kemlock will tee off at 1:30 p.m. on the first hole.
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Former Meadow Bridge basketball coach Ed McCall and Billy Lane tied for the low score in the Silver Division, which includes golfers from 60 to 69 years of age. Both turned in scores of 150 for the first 36 holes.
Rick Thompson — a former Beckley resident, who now resides in South Carolina — posted the low score in the Gold Division, for golfers 70 and over. His two-round score of 157 was four shots better than Jim Hamrick of Meadow Bridge.
The top three finishers in each of those divisions will be awarded gift certificates today at The Resort at Glade Springs.
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The championship of the 33rd BNI, played this year in memory of 1985 champion Andy Holland, will not be the only prize on the line today. A hole-in-one on the third hole could win a golfer a car from Lewis Nissan.
— E-mail: email@example.com and follow on Twitter@CamHuffmanRH