Introductions won’t be necessary when Brian Miller and Kevin PomArleau tee it up today in the final group of the 52nd Lilac City Invitational at The Fairways.
The two have covered a lot of the same turf, traveling together on various mini-tours and to Monday qualifiers. Years ago, Miller helped line up sponsorship for PomArleau as the pair tried to make the PGA Tour. Not long ago, Miller turned to PomArleau for instruction and his game is returning to form.
Miller fired a 7-under 65 Friday to take a one-stroke lead over PomArleau (65-131) midway through the 72-hole event. Tyler Falk (70-132), Shane Prante (66-133) and Jesse Schutte (69-134), another PomArleau student, round out to the top five.
The chase pack includes Mike Roters (68-136), Conner Robbins (68-136), defending champ Tony Robydek (69-137), Jason Humphrey (70-138), Jim Mee (73-138) and Manito assistant Corey Prugh (70-138).
Miller, who grew up in central Oregon and played for San Diego State, turned pro in 2005, roughly the same time he befriended PomArleau. Miller went to an instructor several years ago and a swing change replaced his natural draw with “this high right fanner that went 280.”
A frustrated Miller stepped away from competitive golf for 2½ years. He started working with PomArleau – both are headquartered in the Palm Desert, California, area – and regained his swing, distance and confidence.
“It’s a lot of fun to compete again and have some confidence off the tee,” said Miller, 35, who is playing several tournaments this summer and hopes to make a run at Web.com Tour qualifying. “Golf’s no fun when you know what you’re capable of but you’re stuck.”
Miller had three eagles in Thursday’s 65, two on wedge second-shot approaches to par 5s. His third eagle came after driving the 367-yard par 16th into the wind. He birdied four of the first five holes Friday and added three birdies on the back.
“Sixty-five was probably the worst score I could have shot,” he said. “I hit the ball so good, never got in trouble. I just didn’t make many putts.”
PomArleau birdied four of the first five and closed with birdies on the eighth and ninth for a front-side 30.
“I got off to a hot start,” he said. “My speed (on the greens) got off just a hair on the back nine. The wind kind of died down a little and I was used to ripping them a little bit into the wind. They weren’t as fast during that stretch.”
PomArleau has urged Miller to play in the Lilac for years.
“He (Brian) is so strong and nobody ever showed him how to use his lower half to support what he’s doing,” PomArleau said. “We worked on his lower half and got a shaft for his driver to manage 200 mph ball speed or 120 mph swing speed. He flew it on No. 2 (Thursday), that’s 350 in the air.”
Falk, who will join PomArleau and Miller in the final threesome, followed up his opening-day 62 with a 70. He had it to 14-under overall but missed short par putts on the 16th and 18th for his first bogeys of the tournament.
“I felt like I hit the ball just about the same but when it came down to scoring it just didn’t happen,” said the 24-year-old Falk, who was a NAIA All-American at Northwest Christian University in Eugene.
Prante hit his opening tee shot out of bounds and made double bogey. He followed with birdies on Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8.
“The course isn’t long so if you can keep it in play and be somewhat smart you’re going to have a lot of chances for birdies,” said Prante, pro at nine-hole Fort Steilacoom near Tacoma.
Coming in, Prante thought 20 under might be the winning score.
“Maybe even 22,” he said after Friday’s round. “But 36 holes is still a long way to go.”
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