Everybody knew coming into the Spring Fling there wouldn’t be a repeat duo as champion, but each of last year’s winners are in contention to win again. Zack Molloy and Nick Stern won in September, but separated to play in this year’s event. After the first day, both find themselves sitting atop of the leaderboards again.
Molloy, playing with Matt Richey, had Saturday’s top score with a 10-under, 62. Stern and Bracton Womack were right behind with a 9-under, 63, while 2019 champions John Wilson and Matt Cotten also shot 9-under. The tournament will continue Sunday at 9 a.m., with the champion likely to be crowned around 5 p.m.
While there were no hard feelings between the pair, there could be a bit of a bubbling rivalry on Sunday. With both in contention, and maybe even paired together for the final round, there could be some light-hearted trash talk as their respective teams battle for a title. It may have already begun after Saturday’s results.
“I think Nick was trying to upgrade his partner this year. I’d be the first to say he did,” laughed Molloy about the championship pairing splitting up after last year’s victory.
Putting was the main way Molloy and Richey blistered the course. The played good brother-in-law golf, helping out each time the other got in a little bit a trouble.
“It was just making putts. Zack hit a big putt on No.4 to help us birdie our first four holes,” said Richey.
Many of the local top golfers were ready to proclaim Stern and Womack the team to beat throughout the week, especially with Stern coming off a championship in the tournament last September and Womack being one of the best young golfers in the Midstate.
The duo didn’t crack under pressure, finishing 5-under through nine holes and then fighting through a constant rain on the back to finish at 9-under. While it was one of the best scores of the day, Stern was far from satisfied with their play. Missed putts for eagles on No. 3 and No. 9 stood out to Stern as the team’s shortcoming on Day 1.
“I don’t think we played well,” said Stern, who is confident the pairing is ready to roar on Sunday.
Wilson and Cotten could be a sleeping giant going into Sunday. They have championship experience and were 9-under through 15 holes Saturday. Their momentum slowed down the stretch, finishing with four straight pars.
But for the day, the pairing may have delivered the best back-to-back shots. Wilson hit a majestic 5-wood off the tee on No. 10, clearing the trees and the pond to put his team on the fringe of the green of the par 4. Cotten did the rest.
He hit a huge bender from the cut, reading the right breaker perfectly to sink the only eagle on the hole Saturday. Cotten knew it had a shot, but he wasn’t going to celebrate too early.
“Until it was end the cup,” Cotten said when asked about when he knew it was going in. “It was a long putt - Felt like it broke at least 10 feet.”
The tall tales of the putt started instantly. By the end of the day, it was a 60-footer, one that broke both ways, rolled uphill and swept hard left to right to go in.
“It was the shot heard around the world,” said Wilson about his teammates’ eagle. “It was our shot of the day.”
One of the more surprising teams of the day was the pairing of Brett Simmons and Ryan Williams. The young duo shot a 6-under, 66 – catching the field by surprise with their long drives and clutch putting.
They caught fire on the back nine, including a three-hole stretch on No. 11-13 where they were 4-under. Their highlight was an eagle on the Par-5, No. 12. Williams hit a bomb off the tee and landed a 3-wood on the green from 240 yards out.
Simmons sank the eagle putt, one of just three eagles of the day. Freddie Davenport and Jamie Wolfe had an eagle on the Par-5, No. 16.
Hank Patton and Matt Brown are just three shots off the lead with a 7-under, 65. Bill Locke and Tommy Sims, who have won the tournament multiple times, are also at 7-under.
Jamie Stinson and Pieter van Vuuren, who finished second each of the last two years, shot a 5-under, 67.
The tournament will be split into five flights going into Sunday.