By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – The game is just not that easy. Remember, golf is a four-letter word that usually leaves its partakers muttering or shouting the frowned-upon expressions of anger and frustration.
Yet here is Aaron Harrell, effortless in motion, stress-free in stride, pounding Otis Park, and the field for the annual Bedford Men’s City Championship, into silent submission. Smooth, fluid, leisurely leaving a torched trail of birdies behind him.
Harrell carded a bogey-free 65 during the second round on Sunday morning, extending his lead with a two-day total of 10-under 134 at the halfway point in the chase for his second straight City title. After his record-smashing triumph (22-under) last summer, which was almost impossible to duplicate, he’s on a repeat cycle.
The difference this time? There’s a close pursuer, a young gun with grit and determination. Recent Bedford North Lawrence graduate and All-State star Ethan Stanley kept pace, firing a career-best 67 to cap 36 holes at 6-under 138.
Together, they played top-level, spectacular golf, combining for 12 birdies and an eagle as the first pair on the course. They will be cast together again, this time in the final group, for the third round on Saturday. That’s a long time to wait for an encore.
As sensational as the scoring was on a course that’s running out of defense for today’s length-dominated game, Harrell’s round could have been even lower and mind-boggling. He had three putts catch pieces of the hole and lip out with a sneer. Two of those were for eagles. His record 64 during last year’s third round was in serious jeopardy. Wow.
“I actually got lucky because he left some putts out there,” Stanley said after witnessing the assault from his front-row view. “It’s not frustrating because he’s just a good golfer, and that’s how it is. You just have to get better.”
Harrell, the former BNL and Indiana University standout and former golf professional at Otis, opened with a birdie on the first hole, went back-to-back on holes 5-6 (including the first lip kiss on the 6th), sidestepped his only potential problems when tee shots to the right of the targets on 8-9 caused brief concern, and made the turn in 3-under. On the back, he was brilliant, with four birdies during a six-hole stretch covering 12-17. And that included more lip swirls on 14 (from 7 feet) and 17 (from 10 feet for eagle).
“It could have been really low, but I’m not upset at all,” Harrell said. “I try not to worry about the end score of every hole. Today was one of those days where I never really made a mistake around the green.”
Stanley’s tour was a little more electric. He chipped in from off the green for eagle on the 6th (and went 4-under through the scoring zone of holes 5-7). He flared a tee shot right into a hazard on the 12th, saved a “great bogey” there, and three-putted from long distance on the 15th. But every time he slipped, he bounced right back with a birdie.
“I was pretty pleased,” said Stanley, who is on his way to the University of Indianapolis. “I hit some good shots, made some putts – finally. That was one thing I struggled with in the past. I made some mistakes, and you’re going to make them, but I’m happy with how I recovered from them.”
With Harrell so hot, Stanley had a choice – suffer demoralization or spark inspiration. He decided the second option was the best. Challenge accepted.
“It is kind of deflating when he’s throwing darts in there every hole, but honestly it lights a fire, that you need to get something done or you’re out of it,” Stanley said. “I want him to play good, but I want to beat him when he’s playing good. I don’t want him to play bad. I want to beat him, not have him beat himself.”
Harrell shows no signs of doing that.
“I’m very happy to see him playing well,” Harrell said of his former student. “He was making putts left and right. We’ll see what happens this week. I just go out, hit the best shots I can, and see what the round gives me for next weekend.”
Other scores of note, J.T. Bellush and Michael Bellush both fired brilliant 68s to climb up the leaderboard. J.T. finished 2 rounds at 1-under 143, tied for third with Ken Steward (72-71), while Michael settled at 4-over 148 in a tie for fifth with Daylen Tidd (77-71 that included an eagle on 5 in the second round).
The cut for the championship flight came at 153.
The final round rounds are set for July 20-21.