NEWPORT BEACH — What little breathing room there was for competitors during the first 36 holes of the 113th Southern California Golf Assn. Amateur championship, Xander Schauffele bottled enough to sustain him all the way to the top of the leaderboard.
Big Canyon Country Club rendered some sweaty, exhausted faces as the sun set Friday evening, with only six of 80-plus players finishing the first two rounds under par. Schauffele, who transferred to San Diego State from Long Beach, bolted to a four-under-68 on his first 18 and followed with a one-under 71 on the afternoon round to take a three-shot lead over 2011 California Amateur champion Bhavik Patel (71-71 – 142).
Stewart Hagestad led the Big Canyon quintet playing the tournament with a one-under 143 (70-73) and is in a four-way tie for third. Six-time Big Canyon club champion Will Tipton is in seventh place (73-71 – 144) while Don DuBois is tied for 10th (75-71 – 146).
Schauffele began his morning round with four birdies en route to a four-under 32 on the front nine.
"I was stuffing it close and having easy birdie putts," said Schauffele, who played in a prior U.S. Amateur qualifier at Big Canyon. "My caddie was good about keeping me patient, keeping it in the fairway. If I hit in the rough, not always go for the pin. On the first day I definitely played more conservative."
Schauffele bogeyed three holes on the back nine in the afternoon (he started that round on No. 10), but steadied himself and went two-under on his final nine. On the par-four ninth, which has a pond guarding the right side of the green, Schauffele's approach bounced off a sprinkler head, but landed on the first cut of rough. He sank the 20-foot birdie putt.
Schauffele said conditions changed from the morning to the afternoon.
"The greens were a lot firmer, but slower than the morning," he said. "The fairways were running really firm and fast. The wind was the biggest factor. It was up in the middle of the round, but in the end it went down."
Tipton summed up best the grueling first day.
"It's a home course disadvantage. You want to do well in front of family and friends," Tipton said. "Thank goodness it is over. I didn't embarrass myself too much."
Tipton was paired with Tim Hogarth and Scott McGihon, who have combined for four SCGA Amateur titles.
Tipton birdied Nos. 2, 4 and 8, two par fours and a par five, to close his final 18 with a 33.
On the par-five second, he laid up to 100 yards for his third shot. He hit his approach 7 feet left of the hole and made the putt.
All five Big Canyon players made the cut (10-over), including Mike Carpenter (73-74 – 147) and Jordan Nasser (77-74 – 151). Brothers Ryan and Jake Knapp will also play the weekend, 18 holes apiece Saturday and Sunday.
Ryan Knapp from UC Irvine is tied for 20th (74-75 – 149) and Jake Knapp, the Estancia High star headed to UCLA, is tied for 25th (78-72 – 150).
Players will go off in twosomes Saturday. Hagestad and Manav Shah of Bakersfield will tee off at 9:30 a.m. on No. 1 while Schauffele and Patel are scheduled to start at 9:39 a.m. on the same hole.