By Matt Jenkins
---- — MANCHESTER — Neither Paul Lei nor Steven DiLisio are leading after two rounds at the 2013 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship, but both will be very much in the hunt for the title when they tee off for the third and final round today at Essex County Club.
Lei, the co-leader after the first round, shot a 2-over par 72 on Day 2 and sits alone in second place with an even-par 140 through 36 holes. DiLisio, meanwhile, picked up one shot on Lei with a 1-over par 71 yesterday; he’s in a tie for fourth place at 4-over par for the tournament.
Both will be chasing Nashawtuc Country Club’s Jackson Lang when the third round begins today. Lang also shot 71 yesterday and is the only player in the field still under par with a two round total of 139 (1-under).
Lei and DiLisio each feel like they’re in position to make a run today.
“It’s a tough course. You can shoot 4-under or you can shoot 6-over,” DiLisio said. “Anything low, anything around par and you have a shot.”
DiLisio appeared to be picking up momentum on the back nine, playing 1-under par over eight of the final nine holes. He missed a short putt on the 18th green and had to settle for a bogey.
“I’m pretty pleased with the way I played. I’d be a lot happier if I made that putt on the last hole, but it was a good round,” DiLisio said. “I knew I needed something in the low 70s to keep me in the tournament.”
Lei, on the other hand, had been extremely consistent over a 26-hole stretch between the first and second rounds. He was 4-under par over the final 13 holes in the first round, and played 1-under par over the first 13 holes yesterday. He hit a tough stretch late, however, to slip back to the pack.
Lei bogeyed the 14th, 15th, and 16th holes to drop from 3-under par back to even.
“I had my ups and downs. I missed a few putts, made a few putts. I think it all evened out in the end,” Lei, a Middleton resident, said. “I bogeyed three in a row. I just didn’t hit my best shots there, but I kept on going and I plugged a lot on the last two holes.”
DiLisio birdied the par-5 fifth hole yesterday after taking a double bogey there in the first round. He also birdied the par-3 11th by dropping a long, bending putt, and he hit his approach shot tight on the 349-yard, par-4 15th for a tap-in birdie.
He walked away feeling there were more shots he could have made.
“It felt pretty similar (to the first round), to be honest. I struck it a little better; I just felt like there was a cover on the hole today,” said DiLisio, a Swampscott native who is heading into his sophomore year at St. John’s Prep. “I was lipping out so many putts.
“It looks like I’m going to be right in there, right in the mix (today), so I’m just looking to go out and post a good round.”
DiLisio has won four straight titles in the Mass. Junior, taking three straight Boys Division championships and the Pre-Junior championship last year. As a 15-year-old, he’s still eligible in the Pre-Junior Division and he’s currently leading that group by one shot over Hopkinton Country Club’s Jimmy Hervol.
DiLisio and Hervol will be in the second last tee time, along with Blue Hill Country Club’s Jake Shuman, teeing off at 9:48 a.m.
Lei will be in the final group with Lang and Country Club of Wilbraham’s Matthew Naumec, teeing off at 9:57 a.m.
Essex County Club’s Jon Seward is also still in the mix after shooting a 72 yesterday. He’s played two rounds 5-over par and will play in the third-to-last group today (9:39 a.m.).
Kernwood’s Matt Bullock (80-76), Ferncroft’s John Perkins (75-82), and Bass Rocks Golf Club and St. John’s Prep’s James Turner (81-77) also made the cut.