Facebook Twitter

NELFORD LEADS BY 1 SHOT AT PROVO OPEN

SHARE NELFORD LEADS BY 1 SHOT AT PROVO OPEN

Jim Nelford played for more than 10 years on the PGA Tour, but he's playing in the Greater Provo Open this weekend because that's where his playing partners from Alpine Country Club are playing.

"You gotta go where the game is, and right now the game is here," Nelford said after shooting an even-par 71 Saturday to retain a one-shot lead after two rounds.And if a match with his buddies is what Nelford wants, then that's what he's got. The former BYU golfer, now broadcaster, will tee it up Sunday at 12:30 p.m. with former Alpine assistant professional Kim Thompson and Salt Lake amateur Jeff Hale, who also plays out of Alpine.

"We've played a lot of golf together, so this should really be fun. There will probably be some kind of a skins game going on between us," Thompson said, following a second-round 66 that moved him to within one shot of Nelford.

Thompson and Nelford will be going for a $4,000 first-place paycheck in the $20,000-purse event. Hale, who shot 2-under 69 Saturday, won't be playing for nearly as much money, but he has a good chance of stealing the show from his professional comrades.

Nelford hasn't played much on the PGA Tour since a serious boating accident in 1988. He's spent most of the past few years as a golf announcer for ESPN and a Canadian broadcast company. He now lives in Highland, next to Alpine Country Club, where he plays about five times a week. To post a start-to-finish win, Nelford said he needs to strike the ball Sunday like he did Friday.

"I wasn't really focused today and didn't get it close to the hole. But to not hit it sharp and still shoot even par is OK, I guess," he said. "To win this thing I've got to hit it a lot closer than I did today and give myself more putts to make."

Nelford and the other leaders better keep an eye out behind them and not get caught up in their own match, or they could be passed by one of several golfers. One golfer gaining ground fast is Steve Schneiter, another former Cougar now working out of Schneiter's Pebblebrook in Sandy.

Nobody can turn it on and off like Schneiter, and that's what he's done this weekend at East Bay. He shot an opening-round 75 but came back Saturday with a nine-birdie effort to post the tournament's low round of 63. At one point Schneiter birdied four straight holes and used only 11 putts to shoot a five-under par 30 on the back nine.

Mountain View professional Milan Swilor also is only two shots behind and had a good chance of catching Nelford Saturday. Swilor knocked it about three-feet away on the par-4 15th and had a chance to tie Nelford if he made the putt. However, he missed the short birdie attempt and then three-putted the 16th from about 30 feet for a bogey. Gladstan assistant Rhyan Rhees; Dave DeSantis; Boise, Idaho, professional Jeff Thomsen; and BYU golfer Eric Rustand also are only two shots back.

Also within striking distance at three shots back are Chris Abegglen, Roy Christensen and Jim Blair. Abegglen, who was alone in second place after shooting an opening round 66, shot a two-over par 73 Saturday. He was one shot behind Nelford with three holes remaining but bogeyed 16 and double bogeyed 18.