NORMAL — When Logan Stauffer arrived at Ironwood Golf Course on Saturday morning, he wasn't setting the bar too high for himself in the Bloomington-Normal Medal Play's qualifying round.
"I kind of came out here today with no expectations and wanted to put up a respectable score," he said.
Thanks to eight birdies, Stauffer's round was more than respectable. It resulted in a 6-under par 66 and a one-stroke lead over Matt Maskel heading into Sunday morning's second round at Ironwood.
Playing the shorter blue tees helped produce 13 under-par rounds in the 45-man field. It took 78 to make the championship flight.
After the second round, the low 18 in the championship flight advance to Sunday's final round at Bloomington Country Club beginning at 2 p.m.
Stauffer, the 2018 Illinois State Mid-Amateur champion, wasn't much of a factor in the City Match Play Championship or Two-Man Best Position with partner Joe Rieger.
But thanks to birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, the 27-year-old Stauffer got off to a hot start Saturday while it was drizzling and never backed off. After a bogey on No. 6, he added birdies at the seventh and ninth to make the turn at 3-under.
Stauffer kept firing at the sticks. He birdied Nos. 11, 12 and 14 before missing a 2½-foot par putt on the 15th. But a final birdie at No. 17 got him back to 6-under.
"It came out of nowhere. It's like I learned how to play golf again," said Stauffer. "I've been kind of struggling all summer. I got a late start to golf with all the tournaments being canceled. Golf has been on the back burner, more or less. I haven't played as much as I normally do.
"Overall, it was very solid. I kept the ball in play and hit my wedges really good and made putts. That was the whole name of the game today. I made the putts that I should have."
The best Medal Play finish for Stauffer came two years ago. He shot 68-67 at Ironwood before going to Crestwicke Country Club and finishing third, two strokes behind Weaver.
"My whole game plan (Sunday) will be the same as today, kind of stay out of my own way and do the things I have control of and try not to think of things I don't have control of," said Stauffer.
Maskel, a former Illinois State golfer, was cruising at 6-under when he decided to play safe off No. 18 tee. He elected to hit a hybrid off the tee instead of driver, but topped the ball into the fescue.
"It was stupid," said Maskel, 37. "I knew I probably should have hit driver because I always hit driver on that hole."
Maskel recovered and made a good putt for bogey. He wasn't going to let that mishap ruin his good round. After making a bogey on No. 1, Maskel ripped off four straight birdies.
"The hole was looking pretty big," he said. "I hit one close on 2 and then made three fairly long putts in a row from 20-25 feet."
Maskel also had birdies on Nos. 10, 14 and 17 before the hiccup on the 18th.
"I was trying to hybrid to within 100 yards and give myself a wedge where I could get it on the green and give myself a (birdie) look, but that didn't happen," he said.
Wuethrich rolled in a 12-foot eagle putt on the par-5 11th to get to 5-under. But his momentum stalled the rest of the way, and he suffered a bogey on the par-5 17th when he had to take an unplayable lie after putting his drive under a small tree.
"My wedge game, I would definitely say, was not sharp today," said the 21-year-old Illinois Wesleyan senior. "I had to make some putts to make some birdies."
Still, Wuethrich shot his best competitive round of the summer and was glad to see his putter finally start working. He's in better position than last year when he trailed by five after the opening round.
"Everyone will have to be sharp going into BCC because that's a course that will demand your best," he said. "You can get away with a little bit out here."
White, a Heartland Community College student originally from the Seattle area, said Saturday was only his fourth round at Ironwood. He plans to try out for Heartland's new men's golf team later this month.
"I one-putted the first eight greens," he said. "The tee game is usually my strength."
Zimmerman, an Ironwood regular who tied for third last year, put himself just where he wanted by finishing birdie-birdie.
"I played very consistent and hit a lot of fairways and greens. My proximity to the hole (on approaches) wasn't very good," he said. "I got off to a rough start on 1. I hit a bad tee shot into the creek. The ball wasn't carrying early because it was 65 (degrees) and very overcast and the sky was thick."
Zimmerman is looking forward to playing the longer black tees for Sunday's morning round.
"I did what I wanted to, either 69 or 70," he said. "Obviously you would take lower than that, but 2- or 3-under gives you a good chance going 36 holes tomorrow knowing it's going to get tough and I play out here (regularly). I like where I'm at."
PHOTOS: B-N Medal Play action
Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_benson
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