ELIZABETHTON — Carlson Cox says it’s no secret he’s had the Carter County Bank East Tennessee Amateur golf tournament circled on his calendar for a long time.
Today he has a chance to win it.
Cox moved to the top of a crowded leaderboard Saturday by shooting a bogey-free 67 at Elizabethton Golf Course. That left him one shot ahead of Josh Cornett.
“I want this one bad,” said Cox, a Church Hill native who plays for the University of Memphis. “I know I’ve led a lot of inivtationals around here, but this is the one I’ve wanted to win. This is kind of like the major for this area.”
Cox, who had opened with a 69, was eight under par for 36 holes.
Cornett, a senior at Lincoln Memorial University, shot the tournament’s low round, a 66 that got him to seven under.
“Yesterday I was four under through six,” Cornett said. “I had it going then I gave some back. Today I just kept it going.
“I haven’t been in that position a lot, going deep early on. Today I wasn’t trying to make pars and salvage my round. I was trying to go deep.”
First-round leader Whit Brown remained in contention with a scrambling 71 that left him two strokes off the lead.
“I left a couple of easy ones out there and I didn’t have the magic on the greens that I did yesterday,” said Brown, a Milligan College junior. “But I definitely didn’t get myself too far back. I put myself in position to make a run tomorrow.”
Brown struggled at times, but managed to make a birdie on the par-five fifth hole despite his second shot hitting a tree root and ricocheting straight up in the air. He closed an up-and-down back nine with birdies on the final two holes.
“Today was a little more nerve-wracking,” Brown said. “I was the guy with the target on my back. But now it’s on somebody else. I’ll be playing with Carlson tomorrow and I’ll just have to try to catch him.”
Cox doesn’t hide the fact that he relishes the pressure he’ll be under today when the final threesome goes off at 1:16 p.m.
“I love the pressure,” Cox said. “There’s nothing better than making a putt.”
Tusculum College’s David Talley shot 68 to get to five under par and will begin the final round three strokes back. Defending champion Nick York, also a Tusculum golfer, shot his second straight 70 and was four back.
Former touring pro Joe Meade had it going for a while before a quadruple-bogey nine at the par-five 14th hole hurt his chances. He still managed to shoot a 71 and was three under par.
Also at three under were ETSU golfer Devin Komline and another Tusculum player, Justin Harvey, both of whom posted a 68 on Saturday.
Thirty-one players qualified for the final round. Those who shot 149 (five over par) and lower made the 36-hole cut.
In the senior division, Mike Freels made a charge with a 69. That left him one stroke behind defending champion Mike Poe, who posted his second 73 in a row for a 146 total.
Bryan Rodgers was tied with Freels at 147 after a 72.
Mark Runyan led the 55-over division at 147 after a second-round 74. Tim Fields was three shots back after shooting 71.