Pastore climbs up leaderboard

OLD WESTBURY, N.Y. — Two rounds of the 101st Met Open Championship is in the books and Mike Ballo Jr. finds himself in very familiar territory heading into the third, and final, round.

A Stamford native, Ballo is once again near the top of the leaderboard following two rounds of action after shooting a superb 1-under-par 69 in Tuesday’s second round at sun-soaked Glen Oaks Club. The St. John’s University and Trinity Catholic graduate has carded a 1-over-par 141 through 36 holes and is three shots behind leader Mark Brown of Tam O’Shanter Club, the 2013 Met Open champion.

The field of 144 golfers was cut to 60 following the second round on Tuesday and a large group of Connecticut-based players advanced to the third round.

“I feel like I played a great round,” said Ballo, who shot a 72 in the opening round. “I did not putt well. I three-putted two holes again and missed two other 5-footers. But once again, I gave myself some great looks and I hit it so well today. Hopefully, the putts will drop soon.”

Ballo rolled in birdie putts on Glen Oaks’ par-4, 430-yard fourth hole and the par-4, 410-yard eighth hole. He also birdied No. 16 (par-4, 400).

“It wasn’t as windy out there today as it was in the first round, but the course was set up longer, so it was still pretty tough. This course provides a great test of golf. There is no room for error and it’s tough to score. So I’m excited to be in contention.”

The two-time Ike Championship winner finished in a second-place tie at the 2012 Met Open at Plainfield Country Club and is usually among the top-10.

“I have been in this position a few times now,” Ballo said. “I have had the lead in this tournament and have been near the top of the leaderboard, so I’m going to take that experience and learn from it. Right now, I feel very lucky to be playing golf.”

Kevin Foley of Neshanic Valley Golf Course is in third place at 2-over-142 through two rounds, while last year’s runner-up Tyler Hall (Upper Montclair Country Club) and Cameron Young (Sleepy Hollow Country Club) are tied for fourth with a 3-over-par 143.

Like Monday, Brown recorded three birdies and 13 pars en route to carding a 1-under par 69. Peter Ballo (Old Oaks Country Club, 73-72—145), Andrew Gai (Longshore Country Club, 71-74—145), and Patrick Clark (Wee Burn Country Club, 73-72—145) are the local players that are tied for 11th place.

Peter Ballo, Mike’s younger brother, posted four birdies and parred nine holes Tuesday.

“I feel good about how I am playing in this tournament,” Ballo said. “If I could combine how I struck the ball today with how I putted yesterday (Monday), I’ll be in good shape. The last round, it’s about going out, being aggressive and making birdies. I know the course now and have an good idea about where to hit the tee shots, which is helpful.”

David Pastore, a 2010 Greenwich High School graduate and winner of numerous MGA titles, carded an even-par 70 Tuesday after shooting a 76 in the first round and is at 6-over 146 (tied for 19th place).

“I still feel like I could have gone lower on this course,” said Pastore, who registered two birdies in the second round. “I hit a lot of good drives today on this course, which tests every part of your game.”

Consistency was the key for Pastore, who parred 14 holes and had only two bogeys.

“Even with only two birdies I had a lot of pars, which helped me move up the leaderboard,” Pastore said. “After the firs round, I’m happy that I was able to put myself back into it.”

Danny Balin of Burning Tree Country Club in Greenwich, Danny Guise (Rockaway Hunting Club), Greg Reilly (Country Club of Darien) and Greenwich’s Paul Pastore each made the cut, shooting a 148.

Balin shot a 71 in the second round, rebounding from a 77 in the first.

“I wanted to keep it under-par today, but I’m pretty happy with my score,” Balin said. “I had it going on the back (three birdies) and was able to make more birdie putts today. I just have to continue to hit fairways and greens.”

Guise, a 2013 Greenwich High School graduate, also shot a 71 in the second round after finishing with a 77 in the opening round.

“I had a much better round today, giving myself more opportunities,” Guise said. “I set a goal after the first round to play a strong round today and make the cut. It feels good to make it to the final round after having a tough first round.”

Reilly posted a 72, following a round of 76 on Monday.

“Today, I had to grind to make a lot of pars,” Reilly said. “After a shaky start, I gave myself a lot of chances. Hopefully, I can make some more parrs tomorrow (Wednesday) and do some more damage.”

Paul Pastore, a 2014 GHS graduate, finished with a 73 Tuesday.

“I played really well, it’s a shame I dropped about five shots out there due to silly mistakes,” Pastore said. “I hit my driver well all day and gave myself a lot of good looks. I haven’t been lucky as far as making many putts, hopefully things will go my way tomorrow.”

Husband Kimmel III (Tamarack Country Club, 149), Anthony Casalino (Innis Arden Golf Club, 151) and Brunswick graduate Michael Savitt (Century Country Club, 150) also made the cut.; 203-625-4423