LUMBERTON — Tied at the top of the leaderboard following Saturday’s round of the 39th annual Kiwanis All-American golf tournament at Pinecrest County Club are two teams that have found success in the past in the tournament and have battled each other several times for the title in past final rounds.
With a score of 62 in the first round, seven-time champs Scott Benton and Dyrck Fanning are tied with 2014 winners John Haskins and Larry Cloninger after posting identical scores on the front and back nines in the first round. The foursome will tee off in the final pairing today at 1:52 p.m.
“That’s what we were shooting for when we teed off today was a 62,” Benton said.
Posting a 6-under on the front, Benton caught fire with four birdies over a six hole span to build momentum for the back side.
“I birdied three and that sort of got us going and he (Benton) went on an birded Nos. 4, 6, 8 and 9,” Fanning said.
The duo stayed bogey free on the round going 4-under on the back nine, including a birdie on No. 18 to tie Haskins and Cloninger’s clubhouse lead.
“We had a really good start — we made a lot of birdies early — and it carried over to the back side,” Benton said.
Haskins and Cloninger also posted 6-under on the front and 4-under on the back with no bogeys to tie the lead.
“To me, 62 or 63 (for the lead) on the first day, and 64 you will still be in it,” Haskins said. “That’s what you look at shooting.”
The pair went 5-under over the final five holes of the front nine with birdies on Nos. 5, 7, 8 and 9 and an eagle on the eighth hole.
“We gave ourselves a lot of birdie putts, and two birdie putts on a lot of holes,” Haskins said. “We didn’t miss many greens.”
Heading into the final round, both teams have been on the winning and losing side of final round duel for the tournament title and know what it takes to finish off the final 18 holes.
“Sunday always plays a little different out here because we play from the back tees, the blue tees, so it’s a little longer,” Cloninger said, “but we’ve shot 62 on Sunday from the blue tees here before.”
“The way it is around here, you’ve just got to make all the birdies you can make,” Benton said.
The two teams leading are a stroke ahead of Stephen Pippin and Will Morgan in third after posting a 63. Pippin, the reigning Robeson and Scotland County golf champion, carded a 64 on his ball. The score is his personal best at Pinecrest as he is riding the momentum from his recent tournament success.
“I’ve been playing good this summer,” he said. “I won the Scotland County championship last weekend at 10-under-par with three rounds in the 60’s.”
Morgan and Pippin teamed up for the tournament after reconnecting at an amateur tour tournament a few months ago. Morgan said he and Pippin last played together at Pinecrest while in college 15 years ago.
“I’ve got probably one of the best partners I’ve ever had at this tournament,” Pippin said of Morgan. “I went out there relaxed and had an easy day. If I didn’t have a good hole, I knew he was right there with me.”
Mark Lassiter and Keith McGirt in fourth with a 64. Jeff Wishart with nine birdies to lead him and Mark Kinlaw to fifth place with a 65.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.