COLUMBIA — For the second straight day, the elements, in the form of high winds and hot temperatures, sapped the confidence of golfers playing Saturday in the Columbia City Golf Championship. The heat index lingered in the 100s with winds gusting up to 25 mph throughout the day.
That didn’t stop Chris Johnson from building his lead. Johnson increased his slim one-stroke advantage heading into the second round to seven, shooting a 65 to set a new tournament record at A.L. Gustin Golf Course. Nine-time city champion Dee Sanders followed his 70 on Friday with a 70 on Saturday, putting him in second place.
“I thought I played OK, until I saw what Chris did,” Sanders said. “The ground is hard this time of year, making greens quick. All I hoped to do today was make the green and then two-putt.”
Forty-three out of the 80 golfers who qualified made the 158 cut for Sunday’s championship round at the Country Club of Missouri.
The course reflected months of spring and summer heat Saturday. With fairways acting like ice rinks, drives continually rolled into rough or hazard areas. The layout of A.L. Gustin further challenged golfers.
“There are lots of slopes here. With the ground being so tough, balls were taking some pretty funny bounces on me,” Sanders said.
Cruz Buchanan ran into similar problems. Despite striking the ball well in the unfavorable conditions, Buchanan could not capitalize with his short game. The long-term effect of the heat transformed greens into freshly-slicked dance floors, leaving putts “Electric Sliding” past their mark.
“I struggled putting all day. The wind knocked a lot of shots down so I needed to take advantage putting. Unfortunately I couldn’t do that,” said Buchanan, who made the cut with a 151. “Winning this is kind of out of the question, but I’d love to finish in the top five, top 10.”
The wind proved to be a Catch 22 for participants on Saturday. Golfers welcomed the strong breeze as relief against the sweltering August heat. However, the uncertainty associated with gusting conditions could be disasterous.
“When the wind’s blowing, you’re not confident with your club selection,” said Gary Hudspeth, who shot a second-round 73. “Indecision is the worst enemy of a golfer.”
According to Hudspeth, the confidence associated with knowing the right club is in your hands produces good swings. When the opposite is the case, bad swings will ensue.
Hudspeth, 61, overcame the debilitating heat and gusty course conditions to defy his own expectations to make the cut with a 153.
John Spencer, 60, squeaked into the championship round at 158 and took pride in the accomplishment.
“I think there’s four of us (golfers over 60) in this thing. Gary and myself made the cut. To have 50 percent of golfers over 60 make the cut is pretty cool,” Spencer said.
The championship round begins at 10 a.m. today.