Originally created 07/18/04

Tilton takes lead under par



Zac Tilton and Chris Kuhlke solved the riddle of the Forest Hills Golf Club greens Saturday, and ended a Regions Cup streak of futility.

Tilton shot 3-under-par 69 in the second round of the Augusta City Amateur to take a three-shot lead over former champion Kuhlke, who had 68 with eight birdies.

Those scores, along with Sam Nicholson's 70, ended a four-round stretch of nothing but over par rounds in Regions Cup play.

"We ended that little streak, at least," said Tilton, who had five birdies, and made two 30-foot birdie putts.

The 19-year-old Tilton opened with 75 and is at even-par 144. Kuhlke, who won here 10 years ago, went from a birdie-less 79 to his 68 and is at 147.

Carter Newman (73 on Saturday), Jeff Pope (74) and John McCormick (75) are five shots off the lead. Nicholson is six back.

Regions Cup points leader Tommy Carpenter (75), a two-time winner this season, trails by seven shots, along with Brendan O'Connell (75).

If first-round leader Tripp Kuhlke had parred No. 18 on Saturday, he would be three shots back. But Tripp Kuhlke, who is a cousin of Chris Kuhlke, made a quintuple 9 on the par-4 closing hole to shoot 80 and fall nine back and into the A flight.

"It was pretty ugly," Tripp Kuhlke said of his 9, which included four shots in the right, fairway bunker. "It can go; that's the way the game is."

The hard and fast Forest Hills greens, which were rebuilt last summer and opened for play in November, have been the talk of the tournament. Because of their firmness, golfers have had problems getting approach shots to check up.

Bart Cathey found a way around the firm greens. He didn't need his putter on No. 7, which he aced en route to 79.

"Everybody's getting used to the harder greens," said Tilton, who had 27 putts, as did Chris Kuhlke. "You have to play for the bounce on your approach shots. The pins weren't in awfully difficult spots, so you can make putts if you hit it in the right spots."

Chris Kuhlke, a former Augusta State golfer, also played for the bounce on his approaches, then made about everything he looked at.

"Today, I just putted so good," Kuhlke said. "It was unbelievable. I think the greens are great. They roll good. They're a little bit firm, but they roll fine."

Tilton has been playing in the Regions Cup since he was 15, and has played in more than 20 events, he said. He's never won, but has two runner-up finishes, including one at the Persimmon Hill Invitational in June.

"I think it's about time I won one," said Tilton, a sophomore on the Kennesaw State golf team.

"I've kept putting myself there all the time," Tilton said. "I've played good enough that I know I can play with these guys, and I know I can beat them. Granted, I'll be a little nervous, but I like the nervous feeling. I wouldn't play if I didn't like the nervous feeling."

Chris Kuhlke only plays in one or two Regions Cup events each year, but he's won four of them. His last victory came in the 2002 W.M. Gregory Classic.

"If I keep putting the way I was today, I feel good about it (winning)," Kuhlke said.

In the senior division, Mike Jackson put himself in position for his third win of the season and ninth of his career.

Jackson, who has lost two sudden-death playoffs this year, is at 145 (73-72) and leads Bobby Gause (73 Saturday) by three shots.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.