KERNERSVILLE — The regulars of the Forsyth Invitational are starting to learn more and more about Dan Walters, who is playing in the tournament for the first time.
Those familiar faces of the tournament learned Saturday in the second round at Pine Knolls that Walters is not about to go away anytime soon.
Walters, who regained his amateur status in June, fired a career-low 10-under 62 to increase his lead heading into today’s final round. He had a two-stroke lead after Friday’s first-round 66 at Reynolds Park, but the gap now is a remarkable nine strokes thanks to his spectacular performance.
“I had never seen this course before, but maybe that’s not a bad thing because I just kind of saw where to hit it off the tee and I went from there,” said Walters, who spent nine years as an assistant golf coach at Wake Forest but now works for an executive search firm in Winston-Salem.
Walters also putted lights out, not missing many as he ran off seven straight birdies at one point. He wound up with 11 birdies and one bogey, and he hit 17-of-18 greens in regulation in his round.
Walters is at 15 under (128) through two rounds. In second place is Mark Johnston, who shot a 67 on Saturday and is at 137 going into the final round. Arlis Pike, an ageless wonder at 71 years old, shot a 64 on his home course and is in third place at 5 under. John Hodges (72) and Brian Hayes (70) are tied for fourth, 14 strokes back.
“I don’t care if you are playing the red tees, shooting a 62 out here is doing something,” Pike said. “I’m not sure anybody is going to catch him.”
Pike, however, was pleased to see his putts fall Saturday. That was a big part of his 10-shot improvement from his 74 on Friday.
“I didn’t miss much out there, and it was fun,” said Pike, who has won three Forsyth Invitational titles.
Walters, 34, who won five tournaments while playing at Rollins College, learned to play on municipal courses while growing up in Lancaster, Pa. He played on the mini-tours for several years and one year nearly qualified for the U.S. Open.
In 36 holes, he’s had one five on his scorecard. It came when he made bogey on the 18th hole Friday at Reynolds Park.
Walters started Saturday’s round on the 10th hole and had four birdies with one bogey. His birdie on the 18th hole was the start of a run of seven consecutive birdies. When he got up and down on the ninth hole, a par-3, he shot 29 for his second nine holes.
When Walters left Pine Knolls on Saturday, he was unaware of how large his lead would be. Although he has been around golf long enough to know there’s never a safe lead.
“Golf is a fickle game,” Walters said. “It’s not over until it’s over, and I have to take the mindset that those guys will be chasing me.”
Notes: Ryan Winfree, the head pro at Pine Knolls, said the course was set up to play at around 6,300 yards. Winfrey also said the course was hit last week with a total of 11 inches of rain but was playable despite all that precipitation. ... Pike, a three-time winner of the Forsyth Invitational, has the course record at Pine Knolls with a 12-under 60 in 1996. It was during the club championship, and it came while he was playing from the blue tees. “I was a lot younger then,” Pike said. ... Dwayne Blakley had one of the better rebound rounds of the tournament. After struggling to an 83 on Friday, he shot even-par 72 on Saturday. ... Playing in the final group of the day on Sunday will be Walters, Johnston, Pike and Hayes. Pike has been in the final round of the Forsyth many times. “It’s always fun to be in that final group,” he said.
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