ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga, – Arkansas freshman Julian Perico backed-up his opening-round 66 with a second-round 67 to move from third into a tie for first place with a score of 133 after 36 holes at the SEC Men’s Golf Championships, played at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside Course (par 70, 7,005 yards).
Not only did Perico move up the leaderboard Thursday, but the Razorbacks climbed into a tie for sixth, shooting a 6-under-par 274. In addition to Perico’s 3-under round, Luis Garza carded a 2-under 68, William Buhl shot a 1-under 69 and Mason Overstreet posted an even-par round of 70.
Auburn leads after shooting an 11-under 269 in round two and is 19-under (541) after 36 holes. Vanderbilt is second (550), followed by Georgia (551), Tennessee (554), Texas A&M (554), Arkansas (555) and Kentucky (555). Arkansas (-6), Tennessee (-6) and Texas A&M (-7) all played together and turned in three of the top rounds of the day.
The battle to stay in the top eight and advance to match play will be tight as eighth-place South Carolina (556) is only one stroke behind Arkansas and Kentucky while ninth-place Ole Miss is just three strokes back (558).
Perico, who was bogey-free in round one, stuck with his game-plan in round two of selectively attacking certain pin placements whole being more conservative on others. He reeled off six straight pars to start his round Thursday before suffering his first – and only to date – bogey on the par-5, 7th hole (one he birdied in round one). However, Perico immediately answered with a birdie on the par-4, 8th hole and made the turn at even par while remaining in third place.
After posting pars on holes 10 and 11, Perico birdied the par-3, 12th hole – a hole that only surrendered the two other birdies in round two – and moved into a share of the lead. Including the 12th hole, Perico birdied three of this final seven holes, including #18 to be the clubhouse leader. Auburn’s Graysen Huff also had three birdies on the back nine to shoot a 66 and tie Perico for the 36-hole lead at 133.
“I think I am playing pretty good, just trying to keep the ball in front of me and attack when I have a good number to the pin,” Perico said. “If the number is not quite the best, I’ll just try to hit it to the flattest spot I can within 10-20 feet from the pin in the wider side of the green. I’m always waiting for the right moment to attack a hole location. It’s all about keeping it in the fairway and taking advantage of the opportunities the course gives you.”
Overstreet off-set his two bogeys with two birdies to shoot an even-par round of 70 and is tied for 22nd with a total of 139.
Garza climbed 16 spots up the leaderboard after shooting a 2-under-par 68. The junior is tied for 33rd with a 36-hole score of 141 (+1). Garza birdied his second hole before giving that shot back on the seventh to stand at even. He ran off five straight pars before carding birdies on holes 13 and 15 to get to 2-under for the day.
Buhl also showed a big improvement, jumping 12 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for 46th with a total of 144. The junior shaved six strokes off his opening-round 75 to shoot a 1-under-par 69 on Thursday. Tyson Reeder is tied for 60th (73-75=148).
The final round of stroke play is Friday. An individual champion will be crowned on Friday and the top eight teams will advance to match play. Arkansas will once again be paired with Tennessee and Texas A&M with starting tee times ranging from 7:20 am (CT) to 8:00 am (CT).