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Garnett takes one-stoke lead at Cox Classic

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When Brice Garnett finally can accept induction into his college’s athletic hall of fame, he’ll do so with the PGA Tour on his list of accomplishments.

The 36-hole leader at the Cox Classic, as he did last year, has to push his award back because of golf. This time, Missouri Western’s hall of fame weekend in late September coincides with the Tour Championship in Florida.

“I hope they don’t feel they need to re-vote on me because I can’t be there again,” Garnett said. “I don’t think I want to miss the tour championship.”

The rest of the Tour season is gravy for the golfer from northwest Missouri. He’ll be among the top 25 money winners who receive their 2013-14 PGA Tour membership after the regular season concludes Sunday.

Friday, he shot a meaty 63 at Champions Run to reach 12 under and take a one-stroke lead over six golfers into Saturday’s third round of the $800,000 Cox Classic.

“It’s the first week for me to be in this position, where’s it’s fun to just play,” Garnett said. “I know a lot of guys are feeling a lot of pressure. I’m just trying to enjoy the week and know that at the end of the week my dream will come true.”

None of those in the six-way tie for second at 11 under has that security. Wes Roach, No. 26 on the money list, is the closest. Bronson La’Cassie is No. 33, John Peterson No. 60, Matt Bettencourt No. 63, Len Mattiace No. 80 and Andrew Loupe No. 86.

Mattiace and Bettencourt had 7-under 64s Friday. Peterson and La’Cassie posted 65s, Roach 66 and Loupe, the first-round co-leader, 68.

Peterson, who tied for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open, also got to 12 under during the round when he birdied the 13th. He stayed there until a bogey on the par-5 17th.

“Looks like BG (Garnett) tore it up out there and there’s a big group at 11 and probably a big group at 10 and one at 9,” Loupe said. “A lot of people are close. It’s no time to relax.”

Garnett’s score is the highest to lead after 36 holes since 2006, when Bradley Hughes was at 12 under with a one-stroke lead. Johnson Wagner, who was 41st after two rounds, won that year by shooting 15 under par on the weekend.

Garnett made 10 birdies in his round, the final four coming in his last five holes as he finished on the course’s front nine. He had two bogeys, on 16 and 18.

“It was a fast finish,” he said. “I hit a couple close and had a couple two-putt birdies.”

The bogeys weren’t worrisome, he said, because of the many birdie and eagle holes ahead on the front nine.

“You have to stay on the gas pedal out there,” he said.

Garnett has been a feast or famine player, making the cut in only half of his first 18 starts this season. He had a stretch of seven tournaments where he was gone after Friday.

Yet he’s No. 14 on the money list with a tie for second in Chile and a third at the WNB Classic.

“It was about ball-striking,” Garnett said of the string of missed cuts. “I wasn’t confident in my driver.

“After the fast start I had to the year, I knew I was close to getting my (PGA Tour) card and then went through that stretch, but my game has been better the last five weeks. I haven’t practiced on my short game very much but it’s been sharp the last three or four weeks.”

Garnett was a three-time Division II All-American at Missouri Western in St. Joseph. He was fourth in the national tournament as a junior.

“I think I’m the first golfer to go into our hall of fame,” the ex-Griffon said. “I’m proud of where I went. I have the school logo on my bag.

“I think it’s amazing for a Division II golfer to make it to the tour.”

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