The common refrain after the first day of the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational at Pittsburgh Field Club in Fox Chapel was that you couldn't win the tournament in the first two rounds, but you certainly could lose it.
Through 36 holes Monday, mini-tour pro Mike Van Sickle of Pine-Richland High School and Hannastown Golf Club pro Ryan Sikora were in the best position to take home the tournament's $35,000 first-place prize, tied atop the leader board at 3-under 137.
"The greens were perfect," Sikora said. "You had to pay attention, some of the pin placements were tucked like they always are. If you hit it on the green and put a good stroke on it, it was going in."
Sikora carded the low round of the day in the first round when he shot a 67. He moved as low as 5 under when he eagled the par-5 11th on a chip-in from the bunker. He double-bogeyed the par-3 14th and bogeyed the par-5 15th, though, before a birdie on the par-4 17th to come in with a 67.
Sikora's second round was much more consistent, closing out the day with an even-par 70.
"I was getting tired on those last nine holes," Sikora said. "You just have to pay attention on every single shot, especially your approach shots into the green. If you short-side yourself or hit it on the wrong side of the pin, you're making bogey."
Van Sickle also had a chance to come in with a low score in the first round, sitting at 4 under through 16 holes. He bogeyed the par-4 eighth (after starting on the 10th tee), and had a par putt on the par-4 ninth roll around the lip before spitting out, settling for another bogey for a first-round 68.
"That's the kind of stuff that happens out there because the greens are so fast," Van Sickle said. "You have a 2-footer that's breaking hard, which sounds ridiculous for a 2-footer, but you have to respect the greens so much that stuff can happen. You just have to suck it up, tap it in and get it back somewhere else."
Van Sickle shot 69 in the second round to end the day tied for the lead.
While both players rued their missed opportunities for lower numbers, both were happy just to have a chance at the big prize heading into the final two days. After 36 holes Monday, all 40 golfers entered will play 18 today and 18 Wednesday to determine a champion.
"You're not trying to shoot a score out here," Van Sickle said. "It's the kind of course where you just do what you can. Whatever the score is at the end of that round, you just have to hope that you had a good game plan and executed it."
Allegheny Country Club pro John Aber was the only other player under par (1 under) through two rounds, shooting a first-round 68 and second-round 71. The low amateur in the field was Sean Knapp, who finish at 6 over.
The first group in the third round will tee off at 7:30 a.m. today, and Van Sickle and Sikora will be in the final pairing at 10:21 a.m.
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.