LUMBERTON — Kyle Covington had been struggling with his putting through the first two rounds of the Robeson County Golf Championships, sponsored by Dial Insurance, but on No. 17, those struggles didn’t matter.
Covington’s approach shot from 70 yards out went straight into the cup for an eagle on the par-5 hole.
“I wish it would have happened earlier in the round,” Covington said of the shot. “It’s just nice when it happens.”
The shot helped him with his goal of scoring under par for the second straight round and put him in the driver’s seat of the championship division.
“I kind of wanted to be two or three under, and I was trying to birdie Nos. 17 and 18, and it just works out sometimes,” he said.
Covington carded his second straight 3-under-par 69 to give himself a 138 for the tournament and a four-stroke lead heading into today’s final round. Aside from his struggles with the putter, Covington has been happy with his game.
“I hit the ball pretty good, just the same as yesterday, I couldn’t make any putts,” he said. “The greens are rolling good, I just can’t do anything with them.”
His closest competition in the championship is Jeff Wishart, who posted a second straight 1-under 71. Much like Covington, Wishart hasn’t been completely happy with his play.
“I didn’t make any putts on the back side which is the same story as yesterday,” Wishart said. “Both days being 2-under and then coming to No. 18 and bogeying 18 both days really kind of hurt my feelings.”
The final bogey on Saturday was his only one of the round, which he said gives him confidence heading into today’s final round.
“If I can make a round of pars and throw in three or four birdies I think it will be a good round,” Wishart said.
Andy Andrews and Brad Locklear are knotted up at 1-under for the third position on the board. For Locklear, it was a 3-under 69 that put him into position to contend.
“I had a stretch that got me back into the swing of things, because I had bogeyed one. I just tried to stay steady,” Locklear said. “I’m happy with where I’m at.”
Locklear wasn’t sure how well he would compete in this year’s event, but playing behind the leaders and hearing there was room to move up is something that helped him.
“Midway through the round they said (the leaders) weren’t burning it down, so I felt if like if I just hung in there, got a few birdies here, I would be in good shape,” he said.
Nick Dial and Mark Kinlaw round out the top five on the scoreboard as they sit seven strokes back of Covington on the leader board. With no players any closer than four strokes of him, Covington is sitting in good position, and the field behind him knows it.
“Looking at the scoreboard, (Covington’s) sitting at 6-under, so you know, he has quite a bit of cushion,” Locklear said. “I’m just going to play my hardest and maybe I can shoot my career low.”
For Covington, the approach is much simpler.
“Don’t mess up,” he said. “It’s been three years since I won. You say (experience) helps, but it really doesn’t because I’m not used to being in that last group and not used to leading. It’s kind of just like starting all over really.”
In the ladies division, Pandora Carter took the day one lead after posting an 84. Carter felt she could have had a lower score, and was surprised to find herself in the lead.
“I think the front nine was better to me,” Carter said. “I shot a 39. My chipping and my putting was better than on the back nine.”
The round gave her a two stroke lead over Stephanie Miller and Carmen McQueen who both posted 86’s on their rounds.
Carter said she would need to do a better job of carrying her round over to the back nine in order to take home the championship.
In the regular division, Lonail Locklear is taking a four stroke lead into today’s round after posting a 1-under 71.