Brandon Kandolin and Tyler Barrett shook off blustery conditions Saturday at the Golf Club at Red Rock and carded a 9-under-par 63 to take a two-stroke lead after the opening day of the South Dakota Golf Association’s Two-Man Championship.
T.J. and Ryan Nolan of Rapid City are two shots back and alone in second place after carding a 65, while Jeff Meyerink and Brandon Sigmund are third after shooting a 6-under 66. Arnile and T.J. Meyer sit in fourth, another stroke back at 5-under 67.
Conditions were far from perfect for Saturday’s round. The early pairings started the day in temperatures around 50 degrees and a wind of 10 to 15 mph, with gusts into the 20-mph range.
Kandolin said both he and Barrett made several long putts to spark their round, along with one scoring when the other was struggling on a hole-by-hole basis.
“The backside — our first nine — we did ham-and-egg it. One of us was scoring when the other was out,” Kandolin said. “The big thing was, we got a lot of putts to drop. With the conditions, we got it on the green and then we knocked down a lot of long putts. When someone had a chance to get a decent birdie look, we would knock down the putt.”
The Nolan brothers used course knowledge to their advantage as well, stepping away from hitting shots when the wind would pick up.
“There's a couple holes that were swirling, so we had to just stand off and wait to see what the gusts were doing,” said T.J. Nolan, who was in the second group to go off No. 1, with a 7:40 a.m. start. “It was tough, but we figured it out. We were hitting it really well, hitting our spots and making some putts.”
With a 9:20 a.m. tee time, Kandolin and Barrett started nearly two hours after the Nolans. In fact, the first-day leaders were the final morning group to start on the 10th hole. Kandolin felt conditions for the later groups were relatively similar to what the early-morning twosomes had played in.
Kandolin pointed out two factors as keys to the low round he and Barrett posted during Saturday’s opening round – familiarity with each other as playing partners and knowing the course at Red Rock very well.
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“We’ve played together for 13 to 15 years,” Kandolin said. “My partner and I are very familiar with this course. It’s our home course, we know where to play shots and how to keep the ball in play.”
The father-son team of Jeff and Dylan From of Hartford found themselves crossed up by the wind. The lighter breeze blew out of the north-northwest during Friday’s practice round but shifted to the south on Saturday.
“There’s a lot of elevation changes, then to factor in the wind,” Dylan From pointed out. “It blew from a completely different direction yesterday. We factored in which club we're going to hit – we had it all written out what we were going to hit and what we are going to play – and then the wind is totally opposite, the exact opposite.”
“Three-under, not so bad in those conditions,” Jeff From said. “The goal was to not have a big number, and our worst score was a bogey, so we're pretty happy about our round.”
There are 13 teams sitting from 9- to 3-under-par heading into Sunday’s final round. Given conditions are forecast to be as challenging or worse than those on Saturday, the final round will be both a physical and mental challenge.
Two twosomes — Andrew Vangerpen and Sam Batta and the team of Hank Eggebraaten and Nathan Woodall — opened with scores of 4-under 68 on the par-72 track at Red Rock. Both teams are tied for fifth going into today’s final round.
Seven two-man teams, including Dylan and Jeff From, are tied for seventh place at 3-under 69.
“It’s going to be a matter of keeping the ball in play and giving ourselves a chance to score,” Kandolin said. “It’s a great field. There’s a lot of guys who have been successful in SDGA events.”
“We definitely both gained a lot of confidence with the wind and the conditions,” Ryan Nolan said, “So going in tomorrow, I think we're in a good spot.”