Wilkins Eyes Birthday Bash at PVAC

FAYETTEVILLE -- Buddy Wilkins, an Arkansas sophomore, hopes to celebrate his 19th birthday in style today at Paradise Valley Athletic Club. Wilkins, of Glen Ellyn, Ill., fired a 1-under-par 70 on Saturday to take a one-shot lead over Nick Quast of Springdale in the ASGA-designated PVAC Invitational.

Two other UA golf team members, Josh Farrell and Brady Fennel, lurk at 2-over-par 73, along with Bill Kelsay. Marshall Carter and Alex Neal are at 72.

Wilkins, who just missed qualifying for the National Public Links Tournament by two strokes at Maumelle last week, has been working hard on his putting since then. Saturday, it paid off.

"I'm putting better," Wilkins said. "But I wasted about five shots today, partly because I haven't really played this course in a couple of years. Like on No. 4, I forgot there was a pond on the left side."

Actually, Wilkins toured PVAC last October alongside former Razorbacks John Daly and Bud Still in the UA Reunion Tournament, but he said, "I was just trying to outdrive those guys all day. It was a lot of fun."

At 5-foot-9 and just 140 pounds, Wilkins packs a remarkable wallop.

But he kept following birdies with bogeys on Saturday until he reached the 15th hole. He ran in an 18-foot birdie putt there, then followed up with a two-putt birdie at No. 17 and a four-foot birdie putt at No. 18.

Other easy Wilkins birdies included a three-footer at No. 2 after an 8-iron tee shot, a one-foot tap-in at No. 6 and a four-footer at No. 8.

"But I bogeyed Nos. 3, 5, 7, 9 and 14," Wilkins moaned. "I drove it in the right-hand fairway bunker at No. 9 and that was a mental error. No. 5 is a par-5 and you shouldn't make a bogey there. I could have played so much better and maybe shot a 65."

Quast, a recent Arkansas Tech graduate, was a runner-up in the PVAC event last year when he double-bogeyed the 18th hole after air-mailing the 18th green with a 9-iron. His shot ended up near the swimming pool.

Bev Hargraves of Helena is in a group at 74, while Rob Witte of Fayetteville is at 75 despite playing the par-five holes in four-over-par.

Lyndy Lindsey, who shot a 76, worked overtime with his Bobby Grace putter after the round, lamenting, "I had 35 putts today."

In the open division, Lynn Stewart of Springdale made eight birdies and had nine threes on his scorecard in a career-best round of 67 from the white tees.

Stewart, 47, is the budget director for the UA Law School.

"I've been a member of PVAC for five or six years but never shot better than 70 or 71," he said. "I was pretty much making every putt today. It almost got to be funny in our group. I could very easily post an 85 on Sunday."

Colby Lane, a junior golfer, was next best in the open division with a 71.

Bruce Norwood of Rogers leads the senior flight with a 70, while Bob Twilley has a six-shot lead in the super seniors with a 71.

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