FARMINGDALE – Even on a nearly perfect day for scoring, the famed Black Course at Bethpage State Park inspired all kinds of exasperation.
It only takes one bad swing here to spoil the mood.
Only 10 players managed par or better Wednesday in the second round of the Lenox Advisors New York State Open Championship. Anthony Aruta landed atop the leaderboard with a 2-under 69. The 35-year-old assistant from North Shore Country Club is heading into the final round with a two-shot lead.
James Ondo is close.
The 33-year-old Apawamis head pro also fired a 69 on Wednesday, leaving him in second place with a 1-under 141 total.
“It’s always tough,” Ondo said. “You never find an easy day at Bethpage Black.”
Peter Ballo made the biggest jump.
The assistant from Old Oaks climbed back to even par for the championship with a 67, the lowest score of the week. He’s tied for third with GlenArbor director of golf Rob Labritz heading into Thursday.
“I had my driver working,” said Ballo, who landed in third place earlier this month at the Westchester Open. “I’m lucky to be able to hit the ball more than 300 yards and that’s a bonus here when you hit the fairways. If you’re in the rough, it doesn’t matter. You can be 80 yards out and not be able to reach the green.”
Both players are happy to let Aruta sleep under the pressure.
“I’m in a good place,” Ballo added. “I’m only three shots back. Who knows what the conditions will be like, but things can really change quickly here. I like where I am.”
Ondo is a talented player, but he’s never been this close to a major win.
“I started on No. 10 and hit a lot of good shots on the back,” he said. “I shot 31 on my first nine. I kept finding the right spots and had a stress-free nine, which is not usually the case on those holes. I bogeyed my last two holes coming in, but to shoot a 69 on the Black is something to be excited about.”
An opportunity to play three straight days is a luxury.
“I’ve played in a few tournaments recently,” Ondo said. “Apawamis is a busy place, though. We do play with the members about once a week. They’re very supportive and we get out as much as we can, but it’s not an everyday thing.”
The approach will not change over the last 18 holes.
“I think it’s better to chase,” Ondo said. “I’m a club pro and they pay me to be a club pro, not a touring professional. Bethpage Black is my cathedral, so it’s going to be fun. I’m going to play golf and whatever it adds up to, it adds up to.”
U.S. Junior Amateur: Brent Ito had to survive an early-morning playoff to get into match play, then upended No. 5 seed Matthew Sharpstene at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee.
The recent Ardsley graduate, who is heading for the University of Michigan, advanced with a 3-and-2 victory.
Ito chipped in for birdie from 50 feet on the 12th hole to go 1-up. He also won the 14th and 15th holes with birdies. The match was conceded when Sharpstene got in trouble off the 16th tee.
“I have a lot of perseverance,” Ito said. “I really wasn’t putting well. I just had to slow down, take my time and get into the groove. I pulled that off pretty well today.”
U.S. Girls Junior: A late comeback extended a good run, but Kyra Cox was eliminated from the U.S. Girls Junior at Ridgewood Country Club, falling 3 and 2 in a Round of 64 match to Andrea Lee.
The 17-year-old South Salem resident was 5-down after nine holes against the California resident, who birdied two of her first three holes.
Cox made three birdies after making the turn to stay alive, but the match ended on the 16th hole when both players made par.