Defending champion Chris Ming was relaxing in the clubhouse at The Fairways at West Terrace Friday afternoon, just moments after rolling in a long birdie putt on the 18th hole to post a respectable second-round total of 2-under-par 70 in the 46th annual Lilac Invitational.
“Under the conditions, I’m just happy to get that last putt and get to 70,” he said. “I shouldn’t be too far out of it. But there are still 10 guys out there who can shoot 65 or 66.”
The American flag, snapping loudly in the gusty winds just outside the clubhouse, suggested otherwise. But as it turned out, Ming was right.
Troy Kelly checked in a short time later with a 7-under 65, and his close friend and playing partner Conner Robbins shot 66, despite making a tacky double-bogey 6 on the finishing hole.
What Ming didn’t see coming, however, was Josh Williams’ stirring round of 8-under 64 that vaulted him past a host of players – including first-round leader Jason Boyd – and into a one-stroke lead heading into today’s third round of the region’s only 72-hole event.
Williams, a first-time Lilac participant and minitour regular from San Ramon, Calif., conquered the difficult winds to hang up the lowest round of the day and settle in with a 36-hole total of 130 – 14 strokes under par.
Boyd, a close friend and traveling partner of Williams, tacked a second-round 68 onto Thursday’s 63 and was tied for second place with Robbins at 131. Two-time champion Mark Worthington was another shot back at 133, followed by Kelly and Matt Hartley at 134.
Ming’s 70, coupled with his opening-round 65, left him at 135, along with David Jackson.
But the day belonged to the 25-year-old Williams, who made the long drive from the Bay Area with Boyd earlier in the week, and spiced up his terrific second round by birdieing all four of The Fairway’s shortish par-5 holes.
“The wind was tough, no doubt about it,” Williams said. “But making birdie on all of the par-5s was key. They’re all short and you can get there pretty easily, so you should pick up four shots there.
“But I hit it pretty good all day and made a few 10- to 15-foot putts, so overall it was a pretty solid round.”
Boyd bogeyed two out the last four holes to give up the two-stroke lead he held following the opening round.
The Stockton, Calif., resident failed to get up and down from just off the green on Nos. 15 and 17 and admitted his staggering finish didn’t do much for his morale.
“All in all, it was an OK round,” he said, “but you’d always rather finish strong.”
Perhaps the most intriguing round of the day was the 66 turned in by Robbins, who had opened with a 65.
The Seattle-area pro had it to 8 under heading to the 18th tee, but gave a couple of strokes back when his approach shot to the final green flew to the right, hit the cart path and bounced into a flower bed.
Robbins got a free drop from the flowers, but was still faced with a difficult short-sided pitch to a back pin that he left in the bunker at the back right of the green. His sand shot rolled about 10 feet past the hole and he missed his bogey putt.
“The 18th just killed me,” said Robbins, who opened his round with six consecutive birdies and matched Kelly’s 30 on the front nine. “To bring double-bogey into play there is just stupidity.”
Robbins blamed his only major hiccup of the tournament on his drive, which he pulled left – and almost out of bounds – behind a stand of trees that guards the outside of the elbow on the demanding 419-yard, dogleg-left par-4.
“I was in some thick rough over there and, because of the trees, I didn’t get a very good feel for the wind,” he explained. “I thought it was coming straight at me, so I aimed at the middle of the green and the wind blew it right.
“Of course, I’m mad about it, but I’m holding it in. Actually, I’m furious. But I still had a good time, because I was playing with friends. And having a good time is what this tournament is all about. Plus, there’s still a lot of golf left.”
Steve Leupold shot 68 and, at 139, leads Bob Johnson by six shots in the Senior Pro Division.
Corey Whittle added a 74 to his opening-round 66 and remained the low amateur in the field at 140
Play continues today with the leaders expected to tee off at about noon. The final round is Sunday.
The tournament is open to the public free of charge.
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