CHEYENNE – Preston Alder isn’t kidding when he says he was a last-minute addition to the field at the 63rd Tyrrell Wyoming State Open.
Alder was entered as an alternate and made the trip to Cheyenne to watch his friends J.T. Timmons and Brandon Kida compete at Airport Golf Club.
Kida’s group was set to tee off Hole No. 10 for Friday’s first round when one of the players didn’t show up. Alder grabbed his clubs, took that player’s place and shot an 8-under 62 during the opening round.
Alder held a share of the lead after 18 holes, but his name didn’t appear in the official scores until he teed off for Saturday’s second round.
He backed his scorching-hot first round with a 3-under 67 on Saturday, and is in a three-way tie for second at 11-under 129.
“Getting into the tournament that late might have been better for me,” Alder said with a smile. “Maybe it cleared my mind.”
Alder carded three birdies and two bogeys during the second round. He also eagled the par-5 Hole No. 13, and is tied with Tyler Torano and Landon Michelson for second.
“I played pretty well, but I had to scramble a little bit,” Alder said. “I got a little tired and exhausted at the end of my round, and I kind of started just slapping at the ball.
“I still hit some pretty good shots and made some putts.”
Alder and the rest of the field are chasing Josh Radcliff of Coppell, Texas, who is 12-under after two rounds.
Radcliff carded nine birdies and two bogeys to finish his second trip around the course at 7-under.
“My putter was a little better this round,” Radcliff said. “I have hit the ball really well both days, and tried to take advantage of the drivable par-4s. I have had some good two-putt birdies, which has kept me stress-free.
“I was able to use my chipping to make up for the greens I missed.”
It has taken the left-handed Radcliff some time to get used to hitting shots off the grass at Airport.
“We mostly have Bermuda grass where I’m from, and this seems like a mixture of bent grass and something else,” he said. “It’s a thicker grass that makes you have to really accelerate through the ball more. I have to make a bigger swing to get the ball where I want to.
“I just have to trust that I can swing hard and it’s not going to jump and that it will come out nice and soft and trickle out.”
Torano – who held a share of the first-round lead – played with Radcliff during the first two rounds, and said Radcliff is simply hitting the ball well.
“He is driving the ball beautifully,” the Chula Vista, California, resident said. “He is keeping the ball in play and making the putts he needs to. He is playing some really good golf right now.”
Torano was 3-under Saturday, and posted his second consecutive bogey-free round. He still felt like he missed some opportunities.
“I didn’t make enough putts,” Torano said. “I had a hard time getting them started on the line I wanted them on. I feel like I’m reading them alright, but I still have work to do.”
The Wyoming Open is only the second event of the year for Michelson, who was sidelined for four months with back and neck injuries he suffered when his car was rear-ended by an inattentive driver while sitting at a stop light in Washington D.C.
The effects of those injuries have lingered. Michelson performs a physical therapy routine each morning, and a recovery regimen after each round.
The injuries haven’t seemed to impact Michelson through two rounds of his first trip to the Capital City. He fired a 5-under 65 to get to 11-under and grab a share of second.
“This year has been pretty tough because I haven’t been able to play much, or put much of any other work in,” Michelson said. “I came up here because I had heard great things about this tournament. It’s lived up to that so far. This is such a fun golf course.”
Michelson wasn’t happy with how he putted during the first round, but a phone conversation with his coach helped him right the ship Saturday.
“We talked about some mental tweaks I could make on the green, and I putted awesome,” said Michelson, who is from Miami. “I made a lot of really good saves and a lot of really good birdie putts. I was able to bounce back from any bad holes and bogeys.”
David Oraee – the 2017 Wyoming Open champion – shot a 6-under 64 to move into a tie for fifth at 9-under. Defending champ John Murdock IV is tied for 12th at 7-under after going 3-under Saturday.
The 54-hole tournament concludes today.