Vanderbilt's Stewart continues to lead Players Amateur at halfway mark

USC Beaufort's Travis Cashion tees off on No. 1 during Friday's second round of the Players Amateur golf tournament held on the Berkeley Hall Club's South Course in Bluffton, S.C.
USC Beaufort's Travis Cashion tees off on No. 1 during Friday's second round of the Players Amateur golf tournament held on the Berkeley Hall Club's South Course in Bluffton, S.C. Jay Karr

A steady rain Friday in Bluffton did little to affect Hunter Stewart's feel on the greens.

And unlike the previous day, there was no stopping. Stewart, the 20-year-old Vanderbilt golfer, poured in a 30-foot birdie putt to start his day at the Players Amateur and dropped several clutch par putts to keep his momentum on the way to a 4-under-par 68 on Berkeley Hall Club's South Course.

Stewart is 12 under and leads the tournament by two shots over Cal's Michael Weaver. South Florida's Chase Koepka is five shots behind after a second-round 70.

"The greens were a lot firmer than I expected originally," Stewart said. "They maintained their speed."

After lightning suspended a planned marathon session Thursday, play flowed smoothly after Friday's restart. A steady rain fell for several holes but never threatened to wash out play and didn't affect Stewart's putter.

With his dad, Jon, on the bag, Stewart made the long, downhill birdie try on No. 3 and added six more. His 132 total supports those who said scores would be lower. In Year 2 of Berkeley Hall hosting the event, the club scaled back the rough.

But Koepka said there is still enough bite for him to be within striking distance five shots away.

"The rough is really penalizing," Koepka said. "The way these pins are, if you are off by just a little bit, you can get yourself into some trouble out here."

Each of the three contenders after 36 holes can trace the source of their momentum.

Stewart won his first individual event this spring, earning medalist honors at the Samford Intercollegiate. Weaver, after bolting to a runner-up finish at the 2012 U.S. Amateur, followed with a solid college season for the Bears and has played the year's first two PGA Tour majors, including a made cut at last month's U.S. Open at Merion.

Koepka plays well when he is in the Hilton Head Island area. He is the most recent Junior Heritage champion, having won the 2012 event at Harbour Town Golf Links. And he finished fourth at the Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate in February.

Weaver's run began with improved putting. He used the hot putter to apply pressure in match play and earned a Masters invite with the second-place finish at the U.S. Amateur. Before that, he said, the Players Am was his only decent result of last summer.

"My putter got hot at the right time," he said.

Stewart began playing golf at age 10 in his native Lexington, Ky., using the ample practice facilities at Champions Trace, a private Arthur Hills layout. From Wildcat country, he wanted a similar environment. And the combination of academics and golf at Vanderbilt, within a few hours drive, were a draw.

"He just wanted to stay in the SEC and kind of wanted to move away from home, but not that far," Jon Stewart said. "It's a great town. They've got a great program and a great facility. It was an easy choice."

After a start-and-stop day Thursday, Stewart and some of his Vandy teammates unwound by fishing at a nearby dock and taking in a movie.

The restart was delayed more than an hour Friday morning while tournament officials waited out a possible storm cell, but play flowed smoothly after that. Stewart said he dealt with rain from hole No. 10, where he made bogey, until the 14th green. He birdied two of his final three to help maintain the lead.

The Players Amateur

Friday, at Berkeley Hall Club, South Course, Bluffton, S.C.; Par 72

Second round

Hunter Stewart 64-68-132

Michael Weaver 67-67-134

Chase Koepka 67-70-137

Sean Dale 69-69-138

James Gibellini 72-67-139

Benjamin Taylor 69-70-139

Oliver Goss 72-68-140

Bobby Wyatt 69-71-140

Matthew NeSmith 69-72-141

Zack Jaworski 72-69-141

Tom Lovelady 73-68-141

Nicholas Reach 73-69-142

Brady Watt 70-72-142

Nathan Holman 75-67-142

Oliver Schniederjans 76-66-142

Tyler Dunlap 71-71-142

Gavin Hall 74-68-142

Ryan McCormick 72-70-142

Keith Mitchell 74-68-142

Ben Dietrich 72-71-143

Ricardo Celia 69-74-143

Geoff Drakeford 70-73-143

Zachary Olsen 72-71-143

Davin White 73-70-143

Cody Proveaux 69-75-144

Curtis Thompson 71-73-144

Kevin Marsh 73-71-144

Julian Suri 70-74-144

Nick Sherwood 72-73-145

Jordan Zunic 74-71-145

Brett Drewitt 74-71-145

Aaron Wilkin 73-72-145

Ji Soo Park 72-74-146

Richy Werenski 72-74-146

Grayson Murray 75-71-146

Richard Lamb 71-75-146

Stephen Powers 72-74-146

Todd White 69-77-146

Anders Albertson 74-72-146

Viraat Badhwar 73-73-146

Lucas Herbert 67-79-146

Lee McCoy 72-75-147

Anthony Paolucci 72-75-147

Sean Bosdosh 75-72-147

Michael Muehr 75-72-147

Tae Koh 74-73-147

Ben Reeves 74-73-147

Scott Wolfes 71-77-148

AJ Crouch 74-74-148

Andrew Yun 79-69-148

Austin Langdale 77-71-148

Michael Hines 72-77-149

John Voetsch 73-77-150

Matt Hansen 73-77-150

Evan Beck 76-74-150

Callan O'Reilly 78-72-150

Maclain Huge 75-75-150

Jake Mondy 78-72-150

Woody Woodward 74-77-151

Compton Pikari 72-79-151

Sam An 76-75-151

Billy Kennerly 77-74-151

Andy Zhang 77-75-152

Ben Fogler 75-77-152

Carson Jacobs 74-78-152

Stephen Behr, Jr. 76-76-152

Zander Lombard 76-76-152

Thomas Bradshaw 77-76-153

Dykes Harbin 77-77-154

Alan Barnhardt 73-81-154

Nick Gilliam 78-77-155

Michael Balzer 73-82-155

Will Voetsch 82-75-157

Jordan Janico 84-73-157

Travis Cashion 74-85-159

Zachary Herr 81-81-162

Nick Tremps 86-79-165

Mickey Werenski 79-86-165

Tucker Wadkins 81-88-169

Third-round tee times

No. 1

7 a.m.: Mickey Werenski, Tucker Wadkins

7:10 a.m.: Zachary Herr, Nick Tremps

7:20 a.m.: Will Voetsch, Jordan Janico, Travis Cashion

7:30 a.m.: Alan Barnhardt, Nick Gilliam, Michael Balzer

7:40 a.m.: Zander Lombard, Thomas Bradshaw, Dykes Harbin

7:50 a.m.: Ben Fogler, Carson Jacobs, Stephen Behr Jr.

8 a.m.: Sam An, Billy Kennerly, Andy Zhang

8:10 a.m.: Jake Mondy, Woody Woodward, Compton Pikari

8:20 a.m.: Evan Beck, Callan O'Reilly, Maclain Huge

8:30 a.m.: Michael Hines, John Voetsch, Matt Hansen

8:40 a.m.: AJ Crouch, Andrew Yun, Austin Langdale

8:50 a.m.: Tae Koh, Ben Reeves, Scott Wolfes

9 a.m.: Anthony Paolucci, Sean Bosdosh, Michael Muehr

9:10 a.m.: Viraat Badhwar, Lucas Herbert, Lee McCoy

9:20 a.m.: Stephen Powers, Todd White, Anders Albertson

9:30 a.m.: Richy Werenski, Grayson Murray, Richard Lamb

9:40 a.m.: Brett Drewitt, Aaron Wilkin, Ji Soo Park

9:50 a.m.: Julian Suri, Nick Sherwood, Jordan Zunic

10 a.m.: Cody Proveaux, Curtis Thompson, Kevin Marsh

10:10 a.m.: Geoff Drakeford, Zachary Olsen, Davin White

10:20 a.m.: Keith Mitchell, Ben Dietrich, Ricardo Celia

10:30 a.m.: Tyler Dunlap, Gavin Hall, Ryan McCormick

10:40 a.m.: Brady Watt, Nathan Holman, Oliver Schniederjans

10:50 a.m.: Zack Jaworski, Tom Lovelady, Nicholas Reach

11 a.m.: Oliver Goss, Bobby Wyatt, Matthew NeSmith

11:10 a.m.: Sean Dale, James Gibellini, Benjamin Taylor

11:20 a.m.: Hunter Stewart, Michael Weaver, Chase Koepka