By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. —
On Friday morning Lou Rapalino did not birdie any of the par-5s at Briarbrook Golf Course.
But on Saturday afternoon, Rapalino birdied three par-5s during a 2-under-par 70 that moved him atop the leaderboard after two rounds in the 44th annual Briarbrook Invitational.
Rapalino, from Parsons and a six-time champion in this event, shot 5-under-par 139 through 36 holes and owned a one-shot lead over Ryan Knell, who posted a second-round 71.
First-round leader Chad Walker was third at 141, and Jake Thomas also shot 70 to climb into fourth at 143. Those four — today’s final pairing — are the only players under par entering the last round.
Past champions Tug Baker and Jim Lucas and recent Carl Junction High School graduate Ethan Hutcheson were tied for fifth at 144, one shot ahead of Chris Patterson and John Robinson III. Les Taylor, whose 70 tied Rapalino and Thomas for low round of the day, and Chuck Land shared 10th place at 146.
The field has been split into six flights for today’s final round — Championship 139-149, President’s 150-156, A 157-165, B 166-172, C 173-181 and D 182-above.
Rapalino’s birdies came on Nos. 5, 7 and 13. He three-putted his first hole of the day — No. 10 — for his only bogey.
“Nothing you’d jump up and down and clap your hands about,” Rapalino said. “Nothing hurt me, nothing helped me. I cashed in when I had chances and somewhat had patience. I hung in there, kept plugging away ... your fingernails over the edge is kind of like it was.
“My lag putting was very nice. I had a lot of lag putts that I ran up very close to where I could handle it. I didn’t have to chip very much ... a lot of fringe days.”
The top two flights move back to the blue tees and will play the ball down for today’s final round.
“The ball striking is going to have to be fairways and greens so that everything can be predictable,” Rapalino said. “Being 59 and 11-12s, I wish I was younger to be playing the ball down, but the course is in such great shape, if you can find the fairways and find the greens or right around the greens, you’ll be fine.”
Knell did his most damage on the back nine for the second straight day. He was 3-under 33 on the back during Friday’s 69, and he shot 34 on the back Saturday after a front-nine 37.
Walker’s bogey-free 5-under 67 earned him the first-round lead, but he had two bogeys and a double bogey in the second round.
“I had all kinds of trouble,” he said. “I was getting my teeshot in trouble, my irons ... I was missing greens and having to get up and down every time I turned around. All-around (Friday) everything went good, and all-around (Saturday), I had a little trouble with everything. It was a fun day though. The score wasn’t as good but I enjoyed it.”
Tournament leader is a new position for Walker, but he doesn’t believe that affected his play.
“My group, I was comfortable with,” he said. “I was just having trouble.”
Walker’s round of 38-36 included birdies on 7 and 13, bogeys on 4 and 13 and a double-bogey-6 on 6 after hitting his drive right into the trees.