If Bart Carroll is to claim consecutive Wagga Country Club Championships this weekend, it’s going to be done in a different fashion to his first.
Last year, Carroll, at 14, was the youngest ever winner of the event, claiming victory by nine shots from Luke Chisholm.
The teenager was comfortably in front after the first two rounds and only had to hold his nerve on the final weekend.
This year, he’s seven shots off leader Ben Byrne at the halfway mark, as the field prepares for round three on Saturday and then Sunday’s finale.
“I don't feel too bad. I’ve been hitting it pretty well in practice this past week,” Carroll said.
“I didn’t hit it very well on the Saturday (shooting a 77). Sunday I hit it better (75). It was very close to being a good round. Just three or four shots let me down for the whole day. So I’ve just been working on a bit of all-round consistency.
“Last year I was six ahead after two rounds, so it’s a bit different but hopefully I can still get the job done.”
Carroll said he wasn’t feeling additional pressure as the defending champion.
“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” he said. “I thought I might have been a bit nervous on the first first tee on Saturday but there was no real nerves. Just excitement to try to defend my title.
“Even though it hasn’t been the best first two rounds, I’m still hopeful.”
He said he’ll also hope for a little luck, perhaps a touch more than those ahead of him.
Byrne will be looking to repeat his strong showing of last week (74, 71) to consolidate that lead and secure his first championship.
“I know Ben, he’s a very good golfer. He’s been practicing a lot and credit to him – I’ve seen him having some very low scores and it’s good to see,” Carroll said.
Two-time champion Henry Brind (2016 and 2011) sits second, four shots behind Byrne, after an even-par 72 on Sunday.
“I would’ve been feeling better if I’d finished par-par instead of double bogey-bogey,” Brind said. “It was a still a good feeling, I was happy with it. It just could’ve been better.
“Hopefully (I can challenge). It all depends on what other people do obviously but hopefully I can put a score on the board.”
Two shots behind Brind and one ahead of the fourth-placed pair of Carroll and Kyle Tuckett, is last year's runner-up Luke Chisholm, who Brind rates as a genuine threat to also break through for a title.
Brind said the only thing that’s certain is that with two rounds to play, it remains wide open.
“Anything can happen in amateur golf,” he said. “Anything can happen.”