Although he didn’t set any course records as he did in Tuesday’s opening round, Dawson Jones of Eagle Oaks continued his strong play, posting a three-under-par 69 to extend his lead to four strokes after the second round of the 118th New Jersey State Amateur Championship at the par-72, 6,881-yard Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station. 

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Jones, the 2017 Amateur champion, stands at eleven-under-par 133 and leads by four strokes – one better than his cushion after round one – over 2018 runner-up Jack Wall of Manasquan River (67-70-137) heading into Thursday’s 36-hole final day of the championship. Seton Hall University junior Gregor Tait of Fiddler’s Elbow, who fired the low round of the day (66), is third at 72-66-138. Tied for fourth place are recent NJSGA Mid-Amateur champion Brandon Dalinka of Ridge at Back Brook at 68-71-139, Jason Bataille of Neshanic Valley at 68-71-139, and Vince Kwon of NJSGA E-Club at 68-71-139.

The low 42 golfers who shot plus-three or better advanced to the Thursday’s final day.

For Jones, a Howell resident and May graduate of the University of Rhode Island, consistency has been the story.  The only blemish of the day was a bogey on the par-4, No. 2 hole.

 “Right off the bat I started with a bogey on the second hole, so I was a little disappointed, but I said to myself that there was a lot more golf to play. I didn’t compare this round to yesterday because I knew it would tick me off more and frustrate me,” said Jones, who has been on a hot streak of late, qualifying in 36 holes on Monday for the U.S. Amateur and winning the Met’s Ike Stroke-Play Championship two weeks ago.

His birdies on Wednesday came at the par-4, No. 6, where his wedge from 100 yards ended six feet from the cup; at the par-5, No. 9, where he chipped to six feet; at the par-4, No. 11, where he hit a pitching wedge from 165 yards to 15 feet; and at the par-3, No. 15 where his 9 iron landed 15 feet from the hole.

“The course played a little harder today and the greens were more firm. The wind was starting to pick up over the final nine holes,” Jones said.

When Jones won the Amateur Championship two years ago, he made up a seven-shot deficit over the final 18 holes to win by one shot. He finds himself in the driver’s seat this time around.

“Tomorrow, I want to keep doing the same things I’ve been doing. I want to stay within my limits and stay calm and composed, and block everything out that’s bad. The final 36 holes is mostly about mental stamina. It can be hard to really stay in it, especially on that second 18,” Jones noted.

Jack Wall had considerably closed the gap on Jones through his first 14 holes on Wednesday but bogeyed the par-3, No. 15 and carded a double-bogey on the par-5, No. 18 when his shot out of the rough went over the green.

“I made a ton of mistakes,” said Wall, the 2017 NJSGA Junior champion and two-time NJSIAA Tournament of Champions winner. “I three-putted from 25 feet on No. 15 and caught a flyer out of the rough on No. 18. I was making a lot of birdies earlier when my putter was hot. 

 “Tomorrow is going to be a long day. It’s a marathon, but there’s a lot of good golf left. I learned from last year that it’s anybody’s game. I think the key for me will be making birdies on the par fives and not making any mistakes,” Wall added.

Tait, a native Great Britain, carded five birdies, a bogey and an eagle on the par-5 No. 13 when he chipped in from 12 yards. 

“I hit 16 greens today and was hitting driver really well,” said Tait, 21, whose 66 was the low round of the day by three strokes. “It’s about staying patient and playing smart.”

Paolo Matti of Plainfield West 9, a recent graduate of Iona College, aced the par-3 No. 8 hole from 187 yards, using a nine iron. It was the second ace of his career.

Final round coverage will continue on Thursday at NJSGA.org, with live hole-by-hole scoring for the leading groups in Round 4. Updates and breaking news throughout the day will also be available via the NJSGA’s social media platforms.

Click here for coverage from The Bergen Record

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