Hunter and Wheeler share lead at Carlton Woods Invitational

With most of the fields going in the opposite direction, Chris Wheeler and Robert Funk turned in the lowest rounds of the day to surge to the top of the mid-and senior amateur leaderboards on Wednesday at the Carlton Woods Invitational being held in The Woodlands, Texas.

Wheeler’s second round 69 moved the Addison, Texas resident into a tie with John Hunter, who followed an opening-round 69 with a 3-over 75 on Wednesday. At 1-under 143, Wheeler and Hunter will take a one-shot lead over Joe DeraneyToby Zeringue and Padden Nelson going into Wednesday’s final round.

Funk carded a brilliant round of 68 (-4) to open a six-shot lead in the senior division over defending champion David OrtegoScott Smith and Gordy McKeown.

Mid-Amateur Division

Wheeler used a red-hot inward nine en route to carding a 3-under 69 in the swirling winds that plagued the players all day at Carlton Woods.

The two-time Texas Player of the Year birdied holes 7 and 8 to make the turn at 1-under for the day and then dropped back to even after a bogey to start his second nine. After pars on 11 and 12, Wheeler then caught fire, reeling off four straight birdies on holes 13-16 to move to 4-under on the day. A dropped shot on 18 left him with a 69.

Hunter, playing close to home in nearby Spring, enjoyed a three-shot lead at the start of the day but a double bogey on the par-4 14th led to a 3-over round of 75.

In hot pursuit of Wheeler and Hunter are Deraney, Zeringue and Nelson, who are just one off the pace at even-par 144. Jon Lindstrom is just two back at 1-over 143. Zeringue was 1-over on his round after making a bogey on the 13th, but birdied three of his last five holes to card a 2-under round of 70.

Deraney, the 2018 champion, bogeyed 14 and 16 and three-putted from the back fringe for par on the par-5 18th to finish with a 1-under 71 while Nelson overcame a double/bogey start to get his round back to even before a bogey on 18 led to a round of 73.

Senior Division

Funk racked up some serious miles in making the journey to The Woodlands from his home in Canyon Lakes, Calif. and it looks like the long trip is going to be well worth the effort for the Californian.

A second-round 68 left Funk at 4-under 140 at the 36-hole mark of the tournament, which is good for a six-stroke lead over Ortego, Smith and McKeown heading into Thursday’s final round.

With five birdies against a lone bogey, Funk turned in the lowest round of the day in either field.

Mike Booker, a four-time Carlton Woods Invitational senior champion and Texas Golf Hall of Famer, was keeping pace with Funk before dropping four shots over the last four holes to fall to 3-over 76 to finish with a 76 (+3) and finds himself seven off the pace heading into Thursday’s final round.

Hunter and Ortego grab early leads at Carlton Woods Invitational

If there’s a mid-am tournament in the Houston area, chances are the names of John Hunter and David Ortego will be near the top of the leaderboard.

Playing what amounts to a home game this week, both players enjoy first-round leads at the Carlton Woods Invitational being held in The Woodlands, Texas.

Hunter, who makes his home in nearby Spring, shot a 4-under 68 to open a three-shot lead on the field. His near-flawless round began with a pair of birdies out of the gates. He then moved to 3-under with another birdie on the par-3 seventh hole and got it to 4-under with his fourth birdie on the day on the par-5 13th hole.

He quickly erased his lone bogey of the day on the 15th with a birdie on the very next hole and finished with a pair of pars for a round of 68.

Hunter, a former college baseball player at Purdue, has had his fair share of success in the Houston area, most recently winning the Champions Cup Invitational at Champions Golf Club in northwest Houston with partner Brad Segreto. He is also a past winner of the Greater Houston Amateur and the John R. Williams Four-Ball Invitational (with Kyle Nathan) at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY.

Three shots back at 1-under are Padden Nelson (Houston, Texas), Jon Lindstrom (Denver, Colo.) and Chad Niezing (Manchester, Mo.).

Nelson opened his first round with 11 straight pars before dropping a shot on the 12th. However, he picked up birdies on holes 15 and 16 to finish his day in the red.

Lindstrom’s 71 consisted of two birdies and a bogey while Niezing had the most interesting round of the day.

The former Missouri Amateur champion bogeyed the first three holes and after settling down with a par on the fourth hole, birdied four of his next eight holes to move to 1-under on the day. He dropped a shot on 16 but bounced right back with his fifth birdie of the day on 17 before eventually signing for a hard-fought 71.

Former U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Joe Deraney, who won this event in 2018, is part of a large group at 1-over par.

Scott Maurer was 5-under on his round through 14 holes but finished bogey-bogey-bogey-triple to fall to 1 over.

Defending Senior Division champion Ortego starts strong

In the senior division, defending champion David Ortego carded a 2-under round of 70 to take a one-stroke lead over four-time champion and Texas Golf Hall-of-Famer Mike BookerKip Estep and William Shock.

After making an early double bogey on the par-4 second hole, Ortego, 63, went 4-under the rest of the day for a round of 70. Booker was the only player in either division to put together a bogey-free round on Tuesday, finishing with 17 pars and a birdie on the par-5 fourth to sit one back of Ortego.

Gary Durbin was 4-under par through 12 holes and held a three-shot lead but made two sixes in three holes, on the par-5 13th and the par-4 15th, arguably the hardest hole on the course. Another bogey on 17 led to a even-par round of 72, but the two-time Texas Senior Amateur champion and Houston native is just two strokes off the pace.

Defending champion Jeronimo Esteve struggled to an 80 with his lone birdie coming on the final hole.

Notebook: Jack Nicklaus was at Carlton Woods over the weekend and commented on how much he loved the setup of the course, particularly the “native area” high grass cut, but he warned against getting the green speeds too high…the greens were stimping 12.3 on Tuesday morning…Annika Sorenstam was seen practicing at Carlton Woods over the weekend in preparation for her first U.S. Women’s Open appearance since 2008, which is just one month away…both Nicklaus and Sorenstam were in The Woodlands for the 3M Greats of Golf exhibition in conjunction with the PGA Tour Champions Insperity Invitational.