Sigel stuns with front-nine 27, round of 62

Eagle on No. 2 starts spectacular effort for 3-shot Bell Atlantic lead

May 24, 1998|By JOHN W. STEWART | JOHN W. STEWART,SUN STAFF

AVONDALE, PA. — "I guarantee I never played eight holes in 9-under-par before," declared Jay Sigel after putting up a record-smashing, front-nine 27 en route to a 10-under-par 62 and a 36-hole total of 136 in the Senior PGA Tour's Bell Atlantic Classic at Hartefeld National Golf Course yesterday.

At the finish, this was good for a three-stroke advantage over the field. First-round co-leader Dale Douglass (71) and Bruce Crampton (70) slipped back when they bogeyed the 17th hole to finish their rounds at 139.

The other first-round co-leader, Larry Ziegler, came in with a 73 for 141.

For, Sigel, a life-long resident of suburban Philadelphia, the round was even more special because it was played before family and friends. Additionally, it made up for past disappointments in this event.

"Playing in the Philadelphia area has always been a difficult time. That's why I credit the game for something like this.

"You never know what's going to happen. And don't try to force it," Sigel said.

Sigel said the key to the round was a tip he received from a friend Friday evening, after a round of 74 that included a whiff ("I took a nice divot - sand wedge - and looked up and my caddy looked up, and when I looked down the ball had rolled into the divot").

"I hit maybe 14-15 greens, but I didn't chip and putt well, and I wasn't comfortable with my swing.

"Tom Elliott, a fellow member at Aronomink [Country Clubl, watched me hit balls. We have the same instructor and we've worked together before.

"After I hit about 10 balls, he said I was staying on my left side too long.

"I'm typically a high-ball hitter, but I hadn't been lately. Last night, I put it in the air, went home and thought about it, and something clicked.

"Today, I hit it extremely well. It was amazing. I'm amazed. For nine holes, I don't think an approach shot left the pin.

"At 10, I had a 10-foot putt for birdie. It was an easy one, and when it didn't go in, I think a little of the air went out.

"I don't know what happened. I stopped seeing the pin. I'd have to say I left the 'zone' I'd been in."

The streak started with a 12-foot eagle putt at the 472-yard second hole, one of eight eagles there. From there, the rundown read like a dream:

No. 3 (par-3): 176-yard 6-iron to three feet. No.4 (5): 3-wood second to 30 feet, two putts. No. 5 (3) 8-iron to two feet. No. 6 (4): 8-iron to 12 feet. No. 7 (4): 7-iron to 15 feet. No. 8 (5): Short in two, with 80 feet to the pin; pitched to four feet. No. 9 (3): 6-iron to four feet behind hole.

On the back nine, he birdied the 13th after wedging to three feet; three-putted the par-3 14th for bogey, and closed with a birdie on the 18th from 14 feet. There was also a three-putt par at the par-5 16th (25 feet to four feet to 3 1/2 feet past).

John Bland followed Sigel's effort with the day's next-best round, a 67. That effort enabled him to climb into a five-way tie at 140, in a group that included Raymond Floyd (71).

Bland's play apparently rubbed off on playing companions Bruce Lehnhard and Billy King, a pair of former Middle Atlantic PGA club professionals.

Lehnhard had 71 for 145, and King 73-147.

Another past MAPGA member, Fred Gibson, a two-time match play and assistants champion, had a second straight 75, and Washington resident Chuck Thorpe rebounded from an opening 80 with a par-matching 72.

Tee times for today's round are scheduled between 7 a.m. and 11:10 a.m.

Sigel's records

Marks tied or set by Jay Sigel in second round of Bell Atlantic Classic yesterday:

Lowest 9-hole score in Senior PGA Tour history: 27. Old record: Gene Littler, 28, 1983, Suntree Classic, Melbourne, Fla.

Best eagle-birdie streak: 1-7, Old Senior PGA Tour record; 1-4 by eight players. Old PGA Tour record: 6 birdies, 1 eagle, Al Geiberger, 1977 Danny Thomas Memphis Classic; 5 birdies, 1 eagle, birdie, Webb Heintzelman, Cabin John, Md., 1989 Las Vegas Invitational.

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