LUMBERTON — Despite sharing the lead heading into the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship, Stephen Pippin was frustrated after a bogey-bogey finish on Friday.
On Saturday at Pinecrest Country Club, Pippin got the finish he needed, putting himself in a position to claim his first county championship heading into today’s final round.
“The only difference today was I finished better,” said Pippin, who posted a 2-under-par 70 to take a two-shot lead at 1 under in the championship flight.
“It was a whole lot better.”
After a bogey on the opening hole, Pippin was steady the rest of the way, rolling in a birdies on Nos. 6, 13, 15, and 17. Making the turn at even par, he caught fire with three birdies in five holes — with his second bogey coming on No. 16 — to finish the back nine at 2 under.
“This morning I kind of scrambled on the front, but I got it going on the back,” he said. “I came back with a great putt on No. 17, knocking in a 20-footer for birdie. That gave me even more confidence.”
Pippin stands alone as the only player in red figures representing the championship division. His 2 under is also the only round under par in the division through 36 holes.
After posting a 5-under 67 in the final round last year to earn a runner-up finish, Pippin said “it was a confidence builder” for him heading into this year’s event.
“That gave me a boost for sure,” he said.
Former champion Brad Locklear is lurking two shots behind Pippin at 1 over. Locklear carded an even-par 72 in the second round.
“It was an up-and-down round for me,” Locklear said. “I’d make a birdie, then turn around and make a bogey. It’s like every time I started to get the momentum going I would hit an errant shot. But I grinded and I’m satisfied”
Locklear will be playing in the final group with Pippin and Lonail Locklear.
“(On Sunday) I just have to maximize my amount of opportunities,” he said. “It’s gonna be tough. Steve is real consistent. But I have the capabilities to roll off a low score. It’ll come down to who can make putts.”
Lonail Locklear, Mark Lassiter and Dyrck Fanning sit four off the lead at 3 over. Lassiter and Lonail Locklear carded 73, with Fanning shooting an even-par 72. Defending champion Kyle Covington also posted 72 to stay at +4, five off the lead. John Haskins and Jeff Wishart are at 6 over for the tournament.
With a solid group of former champions and contenders behind him, Pippin said he’ll have to keep his emotions in check if he wants to claim the county crown.
“I have to trust and believe in myself, but I know I’ll have some issues,” he said. “In this tournament, I want to win it so bad the pressure usually gets to me. I know whoever else is up there (playing with me) will play good. But I have a good chance. The key for me is to not to get frustrated. I have to keep my head under control.”
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.