published Saturday, October 8th, 2011

Mallinger leads at midpoint

Billy Hurley III, of Annapolis, Md., speaks to the media after his second round at the 2011 Children's Hospital Classic Friday at the Black Creek Club in Chattanooga.
Billy Hurley III, of Annapolis, Md., speaks to the media after his second round at the 2011 Children's Hospital Classic Friday at the Black Creek Club in Chattanooga.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

John Mallinger spent the last five summers on the PGA Tour and accumulated more than $5.4 million in winnings.

But he finished No. 168 on the PGA Tour money list and missed the FedEx Cup playoffs this year, so he returned to the Nationwide Tour and is having unparalleled success over the last six tournaments. That includes the last two days at Black Creek Club.

Mallinger leads the Children's Hospital Classic at 13-under-par 131 through the first two rounds.

"I'm holing putts and going at flags more because I have a better chance of holing that putt," Mallinger said. "I feel like I've been playing well all year, but now it's finally going and this is where I need to be right now."

Billy Hurley III and 2004 Classic champion Justin Bolli are one shot back. Brice Garnett is third at 133. Aaron Watkins, Brett Wetterich, first-round leader Nicholas Thompson and 2006 Classic champion Kyle Reifers are all three shots off the lead.

"I took last week off. It rained -- I didn't practice a lot -- so it really was time off," said Hurley, who shot a bogey-free 65 on Friday. "I played pretty solid golf today."

Being on the first page of the leaderboard has been a regular occurrence for Mallinger. He missed the cut in his first event. Then he tied for ninth, tied for third, finished second twice and tied for sixth last week. That's five straight top-10 finishes.

Mallinger played in 15 PGA Tour events this year, made six cuts, finished in the top 25 once and earned $179,000.

He has earned more than $212,000 on the Nationwide Tour by playing just six previous events. That has him No. 11 on the money list, safely within the top 25 and in position to get his PGA Tour card back.

"I'm going to play the rest of the year out here, and I'm still looking for that first win out here," Mallinger said. "I've got a couple chances left."

His chances are as good as any to get that win this weekend. But in an oddity, no second-round leader has gone on to win the Classic. Mallinger will have to fend off a field that is used to seeing the winning score wind up 19 to 24 under par.

Hurley shot a 65 on Friday and has made only one bogey in 26 holes. Hurley, who graduated from the Naval Academy and served five years in the Navy, rolled in a 35-foot eagle putt on No. 14 to jump-start his round, which started on No. 10.

"On greens like these, I feel like I should make a lot of putts," Hurley said. "I see them really well and make a lot of putts."

Mallinger will also have to contend with Bolli, who won in 2006 with a 21-under 267. Bolli shot a 67 despite a double-bogey on his fourth hole of the day.

"They've built a few new tees and added a couple bunkers since I won in 2004, but it's still pretty scorable," said Bolli, who is making his fifth appearance in the Classic. "I made some putts the way you're supposed to.

"There are 36 holes to go, but I'm in a good spot."

Garnett is sitting two shots off the lead in his second Classic appearance after missing the cut last year. He qualified into the tournament this year by shooting a 9-under 63 on Monday at Cleveland Country Club.

"This is my seventh event from Monday qualifying, but I've never been in contention," Garnett said. "I'm going to try and enjoy the moment and have some fun.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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