CHEYENNE – David Oraee played the Tyrrell Wyoming State Open golf tournament for the first time in 2016.
That experience showed the Greeley, Colorado, resident that there were birdies to be had as long as players resisted the temptation to test the Airport Golf Club’s tight fairways.
“The course is not too hard,” Oraee said. “If you hit the ball straight, it’s pretty get-able. There are a lot of birdie holes out there and a lot of holes where you’ll have a good look at birdies.”
Nobody in the field at the 61st Wyoming Open has carded more birdies through two rounds than Oraee.
The 24-year-old posted a 5-under-par 65 on Saturday and sits at 12-under 128 heading into today’s final round.
Amateur Glenn Workman – who will be a senior at the University of Wyoming this fall – is second at 9-under 131.
Two-time professional champ Steve Schneiter of Sandy, Utah, and UW junior-to-be John Murdock IV are tied for third at 8-under.
Oraee and the rest of the professionals started their days on Hole No. 10. He made the turn at 3-under and added another birdie on the par-4 Hole No. 5.
The former University of Colorado golfer nearly eagled the 301-yard, par-4 Hole No. 8, but his chip shot from between a group of trees to the right of the green rolled uphill, hit the flag and stopped inches from the cup.
Oraee walked away from the hole happy to have another birdie and unworried about missing out on the eagle.
“I wanted to land the shot on the fairway in front of the green, but it hit hard and went uphill with a little bit of speed,” he said. “It was fortunate that it hit the pin, but kind of unfortunate it didn’t go in.
“Those trees are skinny and there is some space in between them, but I had to skirt the tree on my left because the pin was probably a foot right of it. I had to get pretty close to that tree to get my ball where it was.”
Workman carded six birdies on the day, but also netted three bogeys. The 21-year-old described his round as a “grind” afterward.
“I wasn’t hitting it as well as I was in the first round,” the Pueblo, Colorado, product said. “My ball-striking wasn’t as good as it was.
“… I had four or five shots underneath trees on the front side. You can’t get anything going doing that. You can’t get a rhythm going.”
Workman posted four birdies on the back nine – including on Hole Nos. 17 and 18 – to finish at 3-under for the day.
Workman’s tee shot on Hole No. 18 went right and was nearly out of bounds, leaving him a difficult second shot over a group of trees.
He used a six-iron to lob his ball onto the green.
“If I hit that shot 50 more times, I probably wouldn’t pull it off,” he said with a laugh. “I hit it as high as I could. I couldn’t have stretched it any higher.”
Murdock posted three birdies, three bogeys and an eagle to get to 2-under Saturday and 8-under after two rounds.
“This round was tougher,” the Laramie product said. “I didn’t necessarily leave shots out there because it all equals out in the end, but I could have played better.
“I’m still having fun out there and enjoying the tournament.”
First-round co-leader Derek Tolan of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, finished Saturday’s round even-par. He is at 7-under 133 for the tournament, which ties him for fourth with three-time champ Kane Webber.
“I played OK, but I hit a few loose shots I thought I could get away with but didn’t,” Tolan said. “That was the tone of the round. I was 2-over after seven.
“This course is tough because when you get over-par, you have to force stuff and it takes you out of your comfort zone. If you get under early, you can play more conservatively.”
Two-time defending amateur champion Quintin Pope, a Cheyenne East graduate, shot a 3-under 67 during Saturday’s second round. The UW senior-to-be is fifth in the amateur field at even-par 140.
Jeremiah Johnke is the WyoSports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-633-3137. Follow him on Twitter at @jjohnke.