HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida — If Bennett Wisner was able to play the first hole at Mission Inn Resort’s El Campeon Club for all 18 holes each day, this tournament might be a runaway. A day after making eagle while playing No. 1 as his 10th hole of the day, Wisner was back at it in the second round, draining an 80-foot chip from the left of the green for another eagle. He’s at 5 under and will go into the final 36 holes of the Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament with a one-shot lead over China’s Charles Wang and American John Coultas. Americans Kyle Mueller and Eamonn McLoughlin are tied for fourth, two shots back. An additional five players are at 2 under on the bunched leaderboard.
In Tuesday’s opening round, Wisner, a native of Hampstead, Md., hit a driver and a hybrid to 10 feet on No. 1 and made the eagle putt. By missing the green in the second round with his 4-iron approach, he merely added a little drama to his second eagle in as many days at the par-5 that winds through trees on the right and water to the left.
“I was just trying to lag something down there to within a couple of feet and just trickled in,” said Wisner of his eagle chip.
Wisner, who finished his college eligibility in 2018, gave a stroke back at No. 3, his first of two bogeys on the day, but he quickly recovered with a birdie at the par-4 third hole. He finished the front nine at 2-under 33, four strokes better than how the field played the front nine Wednesday (37.88 stroke average for the par-35 first nine).
Wisner was even par on the back nine, with seven pars, a birdie (No. 14) and a bogey (No. 13).
Did you know Bennett Wisner attended college at Loyola University Maryland? Wisner and his teammates were unable to attend any of the Greyhounds’ NCAA Championship basketball games a year ago on the team’s march to the Final Four, but during road trips they gathered around live streams of games on the team van and watched as they traveled.
In Tuesday’s Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament, players have recorded 18 under-par scores in each of the first two rounds.
After making birdie at No. 16, John Coultas stumbled to a double bogey-7 at No. 17 when his ball lodged in a tree, forcing him to take an unplayable lie. He was 4-under for the day and in the lead. After the double bogey, he parred No. 18 to shoot a 2-under 70. “I put it five yards right of the line I was looking at and couldn’t find the ball. It just never came down,” he said.
Five countries are represented in the top 15 through 36 holes, led by the United States. The other countries are China (Charles Wang), England (Greg Eason), Norway (Andreas Halvorsen) and Canada (Jimmy Jones).
Charles Wang said he came close to withdrawing from the tournament after the first round when he had spasms in his left wrist following a chip shot on No. 7. He endured the pain to shoot a 1-under 71. Orthopedic tape and a mixture of ice and heat on the wrist Tuesday night alleviated the pain and allowed him to play Wednesday, shooting two strokes better than the previous day. He is sitting at 4-under and tied for second with 36 holes to play.
After cracking his 3-wood prior to the first round, Charles Wang elected to play with only 13 clubs in both his first and second rounds, and it hasn’t seemed to matter. The native of China who currently lives in Bradenton, Fla., is looking for a return to the Mackenzie Tour after finishing 72nd on the 2018 Order of Merit.
The low round of the day belonged to Eric Ansett, who fired a 5-under 67 a day after seemingly shooting himself out of the tournament with an opening 79. Ansett improved 36 places on the leaderboard with his 12-stroke improvement and is tied for 29th through two rounds.
On the back nine, Eric Ansett got hot, with three birdies in a row, beginning on No. 12, and he added a fourth birdie on the back nine, at No. 16. Ansett attended Lipscomb University, and he still lives in his college town of Nashville, Tenn. Ansett was teammates with current Mackenzie Tour player Dawson Armstrong, who finished second here at the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Qualifying Tournament two months ago.
John Coultas continues as the picture of consistency at El Campeon, with his second 2-under 70 for the week, leaving him at 4 under and tied for second. In his six rounds at El Campeon this year—four for the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Qualifying Tournament in January and two this week, his scores are 71-69-70-71-70-70.
The low amateurs through 36 holes are Ryan Gronlund and Stanton Schorr. They are both at 1 over and tied for 18th. Gronlund attended the University of Oregon and was a member of the Ducks 2016 national championship team, while Stanton Schorr is a Mercer University product.
The low Canadian through 36 holes is Jimmy Jones, son of LPGA great Dawn Coe-Jones. Jones fired a 1-under 71 Wednesday after opening with a 72. He’s tied for 11th. Montreal’s Hugo Bernard dropped seven spots after shooting a 2-over 74. He’s tied for 18th. Overall, there are 10 Canadians in the field. Canada’s Cooper Brown had the second-best round-to-round improvement by anybody, with his 1-under 71 Wednesday after opening with an 82. Brown moved up 34 places and is tied for 75th.
The par-4 fifth hole played as the most-difficult hole in the second round, a stroke average of 4.615. No. 10 and No. 1 tied as the easiest holes, both par-5s playing to a 4.769 average.
“It depends on what the course gives you. I think the greens are a little faster than they were at [PGA TOUR Latinoamerica] Q-School, which makes the scores a little higher.” –John Coultas
“I like that hole apparently.” –Bennett Wisner on No. 1 at El Campeon, where he has made a pair of eagles in his first two rounds
“I was hitting it probably some of the best I’ve ever hit it.” –Bennett Wisner on the state of his game coming into this tournament
“I didn’t play great in college, so I still have to shake off how poorly I played in college. I’ve been working really hard, and I knew I could do this and it’s just nice to be doing it.” –Bennett Wisner
“I like being at the top. The fewer shots you take, the better it is.” –John Coultas
“I don’t want to say I’m anti-social, but I don’t mind being by myself. It just gives me time to be honest with myself and reflect.” –Bennett Wisner
“I’m a little salty walking off, but there were a lot of times I saved shots out there, especially on the front. Looking back, I’m more disappointed I made 6 from the middle of the fairway on 10 today; downwind and then three-putted from six feet. That’s more of an issue than a little loose swing on 18 tee.” –Matthew Oshrine
“It was a little uncomfortable tee shot for me, with the wind off the right and a tree off the tee. I just didn’t make a good swing. It happens. I’ve been driving it well. I just didn’t make a good pass at it.” –Matthew Oshrine on his poor tee shot on No. 18 that led to a double bogey
“Today was brilliant. I think today was the best ball-striking day I’ve had in about three years.” –Greg Eason
“I’ve been wasting a few shots on the course recently. I’ve been playing fine but that’s hurt my scoring. I’ve been trying to slow it down and play a lot of fairways and greens, and I made a few putts.” –Greg Eason
“I’ve been so steep for about three years. I’ve been finding out a few things a little bit, I’ve got a new coach and he’s got me going.” –Greg Eason
“I didn’t realize until today that it was the top-14 and ties. I can’t imagine at the end of the day I’ll be too off of that.” –Greg Eason
“It’s Q-School, right? It’s difficult. You just have to play smart golf.” –Greg Eason
“I only needed one practice round this time. It was great.” –Greg Eason on the knowledge he gained by playing this course during PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Qualifying Tournament two months ago
“I had some tape, I iced it and soaked it in hot water last night. I was thinking of withdrawing. I was thinking if I wake up this morning and can’t swing a club, I would have withdrew.” –Charles Wang on his left-wrist injury
“I think I just have to stay patient. In 2015, the first year I got out I went straight to the Web.com Tour. I was young, and I wasn’t ready back then. But I think these last four years I have trained my mind both physically and mentally. I think I’m ready right now.” –Charles Wang
Tournament Fast Fact
The first year the Mackenzie Tour held a Qualifying Tournament in Florida was in April 2014 when the Reunion Resort & Club in Kissimmee hosted the event won by Jordan Krantz. This year, not only is Mission Inn hosting this Qualifying Tournament but Ponte Vedra Beach’s TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley Course will be the site of the Tour’s fifth and final U.S. Qualifying Tournament in 2019. The sixth and final qualifier will be in Comox, British Columbia.
How the Tournament Works
After three withdrawals and two disqualifications, 115 players remain in the field this week—all with the hope of earning Mackenzie Tour membership for the 2019 season. Below is a breakdown of the status available at each of the six Qualifying Tournaments: