Standing at the front of the pack, Matt Steddom is right where he typically is. For Emily Allison, it's a totally new perspective.
Steddom, the eight-time champion of the Times-Republican's annual City Golf Tournament, carded 10 consecutive pars to start a round that included three birdies on the back nine to highlight a 2-under 68 at the American Legion Golf Course on Saturday. He brings a two-stroke lead into today's final round at Elmwood Country Club.
Allison, on the other had, upended a trend after back-to-back years of starting slow and finishing strong. The Marshalltown High School junior-to-be shot a tournament course record 74 on Saturday and has a three-shot advantage coming back to her home course this afternoon.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Four-time defending T-R City Golf Tournament champion Matt Steddom taps in for par on the 17th hole during Saturday’s opening round at the American Legion Memorial Golf Course in Marshalltown. Steddom’s 2-under 68 gives him a two-stroke lead heading into today’s final 18 holes at Elmwood Country Club.
Steddom's string of four straight City championships is far from safe, he admits, as Tommy Craft and last year's third-place finisher Joel Ethington lead the chase group. Ethington and Craft, a championship flight qualifier in all four years of competition, both shot 70 and will share the 1:30 p.m. foursome with Steddom and three-time City titleholder Bill Benda today at Elmwood.
"Out of our group only one person had a birdie on the front nine ... and that sort of opened up the lid," Steddom said. "I played OK. I hate to complain about the round but I was telling somebody earlier that I left a couple out there.
"Going to Elmwood, anything can happen if you hit it crooked. Fortunately today I hit the driver pretty good, placed it pretty well."
Both Craft and Ethington carded four birdies and four bogeys in their even-par rounds, while Benda started with nine straight pars before an up-and-down back nine left him at 1 over.
Craft, who has finished as high as fifth in the last three years, plans to attack Elmwood's shorter but tighter course with the same big drives he used on Saturday.
"It'll be pretty nerve-wracking playing in the first group," confessed Craft, who was in the second foursome when he tied for fifth in 2006. "Being down two strokes to Steddom you have to go for it a little more. The (par-4) holes (at Elmwood) are short enough you can drive them all, but if you hit a bad drive you're in the trees."
Craft said he played pretty well after starting the day by three-putting for bogeys on three of his first four holes (on the back nine).
"I never hit a bad drive, but my putting was not good," he said. "I haven't been playing good at all. I wasn't surprised by my score, but I am surprised there aren't more low scores."
Ethington said he'll need a few putts to drop to get to the front of the 19-man championship flight.
"My putting was weak," he said, "but my tee ball was pretty good. I missed a few putts but I made a few. A 20-footer on No. 6 for birdie was probably the best thing I did all day, turned it around a bit.
"If I can make putts, I should be in there."
Ethington played 2-under the rest of the way starting with the birdie on the sixth. His 4-under back nine last August helped him charge into third place, five shots back of Steddom, when the 20th annual City tournament finished up at the Legion.
Two of Steddom's playing partners - Jesse Reyes (71) and Sam Zoske (72) - also qualified for the championship flight in this, the 21st annual T-R City Golf Tournament. Steddom, Craft, Ethington and Zoske represent four of the eight returners from last year's top 16.
Zoske placed fourth a year ago, Pat Ryan tied for eighth, Tim Rohde and Bill Benda tied for 11th, Craft was 13th and Alex Benda shared 15th in last year's event.
Jamie Bjorkman finished in with a 3-under 32 on the back nine for a 71 to finish in a tie for fourth. Alex Benda and Zoske were joined at 2 over by Brian Fields and Darin Shipley. Shipley's birdie on the par-4 17th was the only deuce the hole surrendered all day. Fields was a late addition to the 128-man field after a cancelation opened a spot for him.
Today's rounds at Elmwood get underway at 7 a.m. The women's flights take to the tee box starting at 11:30 a.m., while the championship flight foursomes begin at 12:50 p.m.
"It's not his home course, but if he plays the way he's capable of, it'll be pretty tough to catch him," Ethington said of Steddom.
Steddom has won three of the last four tournaments that wrapped up at Elmwood, save for Jay Gianetto's 2002 championship.
"I think it is (still up in the air)," Steddom suggested. "A couple-stroke lead, that's nothing, especially over there."
Allison, who in the last two years has opened with rounds over 100, bested the women's tournament course record thanks to an even-par finish on the front nine.
"I didn't miss any 6-foot putts, which really helped, and I didn't have any doubles," Allison said. "I definitely wanted to be up there in the top two, I knew I could do that. I've been playing really well these last couple weeks, and Elmwood is my course, I feel comfortable there and I think I can do well."
Whitney Schrader, a two-time City women's champion, was 3 over on both nines for a round of 77. Lori Veld, who started with a 1-over 36 on the back nine, finished seven shots off Allison's pace at 81.
Schrader held the previous tournament record at the Legion with a 75, which she used on her way to the first of two consecutive titles back in 2004. Before that, Terri Craft (2000) and Diane Tewes (2002) held the record at 76.
"She was rooting for me," Allison said of Craft, a three-time women's champion. "That I actually got (the record) is a big step forward in my career.
"I'm finally getting to the next level of my game, and this just proves I can do it."
After carding a 3-over 38 on the back nine to start the day, Allison chased her only birdie - an 8-footer on No. 3 - with her only bogey on the front nine.
"From 100 (yards) in, I wanted to get them a little closer than I did," Allison said. "They weren't bad shots, but they were not a safe par."
In 2006, Allison's opening-round 103 at the Legion was followed by an 88 at Elmwood for a runner-up finish in the first flight. Last summer, a 101 at Elmwood gave way to an 84 - the fourth-best women's score of the day in a field of 25. She came in first in the second flight.
"I'll probably be a bit nervous on drives and approaches because Elmwood is a tight course, but it's a bit shorter so you can go for pins more," Allison said of today's final 18 holes. "I just have to play the way I know I can play."
Schrader had seven bogeys to offset her one birdie, which also came on the third hole.
"And I shanked it and still birdied it," Schrader said after having scuffed her second shot to the 387-yard par-5 third. "I still got up and down for the birdie.
"I missed a couple easy putts but I made some too."
Terri Craft shot an 87 and will join the final women's foursome. She tied with Renee Bryngelson and Barb Vovos for fourth, while Emily Gray's 88 rounded out the women's championship flight.
Notes: The championship flight took 19 players after six men tied for 14th with rounds of 74. ... The players in the championship flight accounted for 48 of the 116 birdies but none of the three eagles. ... Mike Smith, who will be one of the first men off the tee this morning, had the only eagle 2 on the par-5 second hole. ... Bruce Weir and Greg VanCleave both eagled the par-5 15th. ... Tom Weis scored the day's only birdie on No. 5, while Darin Shipley had the only birdie three on the par-4 17th. ... The par-4 15th coughed up 22 birdies - nine in the championship flight - and No. 12 allowed 18 birdies. ... Five of the six birdies scored by women came on the par-5 third hole, which is a par 4 for men. ... Veld had the only women's birdie 2 on the par-3 16th hole.