Smallwood holds lead at Firecracker
Experience can be a valuable quality to have.
However, when it comes to having played in Lawton's premier golf tournament, prior experience seems to be overrated for Stuart Smallwood.
Having never played the Firecracker Open before, Smallwood has kept a steady pace through two rounds, leading the Championship flight with a combined 8-under 134 through the first two days.
"It feels good to lead any tournament heading into the final round," Smallwood said. "So I'm happy to be leading the tournament."
After shooting a 67 on day one, Smallwood delivered an encore on Sunday. Hitting a 35 on the front nine, Smallwood caught fire halfway through the back nine, sinking four birdies, including holes 13, 15 and 16. Smallwood said he was actually pleased with how he started the day, with the exception of his putting.
"The gameplan was just to play my game and to just play golf," Smallwood said. "Actually, I thought I played really good on the front. Didn't putt really good, so I left a few shots out there, so I was kind of upset about it. But I just kept playing, and I started putting better on the back. I was hitting good quality shots, and I started making putts; that was the only difference between the front and back side."
Smallwood, who played at Texas State and has played on the Adams Tour, said he is heading into Monday's final round with the same plan. The Paris, Texas, native said making approach shots and putts will be the key to getting his name on the trophy.
"I'm a fairways and greens guy," Smallwood said. "I don't hit it that far, so I'm hitting driver on just about every hole, except for the short ones. Maybe if the wind picks up on a couple of holes, I might hit driver and get close too. It just depends. Other than that, the gameplan won't change much."
In the final group with Smallwood will be the only other men to have broken 70 through the two days. Two shots behind Smallwood is Jared Baker, who finished the second round with a 66, the best round by any golfer this tournament, adding to his 70 on day one for a combined 136. Baker was consistent all day, with five birdies and only two bogies on the day.
Cullen Stahl is right behind him with a 137. The Cameron product started off the back nine on fire, with birdies on three of the first four holes. However, bogeys on holes 14 and 18 dropped him to 69 for the day. All three golfers played in the same group on Sunday, and the high level of golf being played fueled the competition between the golfers.
"Whenever everybody is making birdies, it pushes you to make more," Stahl said.
Stahl and Baker are in somewhat familiar territory, having played with and against one another while Stahl was a golfer at Cameron and Baker played at rival Midwestern State. Stahl said that actually took some of the pressure and edge off of the round.
"I played a lot of college golf with Jared, so it's fun to tee it up again," Stahl said. "It's like a normal day out there with those guys."
The fourth player in the top group for the final round is Joby Dutcher, who shot a 71 on day two after shooting a 1-under 70 on Saturday. Dutcher is one of three golfers at 1-under after two rounds. He said he was pleased with how well he played.
"I don't play as much as I used to," Dutcher said. "It's good to string a couple of good rounds together."
Along with Dutcher at 141 are the top two finishers from last year's tournament, Dylan McClure and defending champ Dustin Wigington. Wigington said he was happier with his putting on day two compared to day one and said he hopes to continue that on day three.
"Some tee balls I did not drive very well, but I putted real well," Wigington said.
Wigington shot a final-round 64 last year to claim the title. If he were to post another low score, he could once again be in contention. Having won the Firecracker three times, Wigington said he looks at his past experiences as a positive heading into the final round.