DALLAS—As the setting sun cast long shadows over the plush, tree-lined fairways of famed Royal Oaks Country Club, Scott Loving from Conroe and Scott Abbott from Dallas turned in two of the lowest scores of 2015 Texas Mid-Amateur’s second round. For their efforts, Loving and Abbott share the 36-hole lead of the year’s final major championship at 3-under-par 139.
Loving, a 42-year-old who works in the retail electricity business, found his swing late in the day and blitzed the final five holes with birdies on four of them. He shot a 3-under 68, and for the third time in his amateur career holds at least a piece of the Texas Mid-Amateur lead headed into the final round.
“I struggled early, but as I settled into the round I hit one good shot and said, ‘That’s the feeling I’m looking for.’ From there I just repeated it,” said Abbott, who was tied for the 36-hole lead at the 2006 Texas Mid-Amateur and held a three-shot advantage after two rounds at the 2010 Texas Mid-Amateur. He didn’t win either time.
“It’s tough to win any tournament,” he said. “You have to battle the nerves and try to settle yourself. But I knew that back then, too. It’s not anything new. Hopefully I’ll handle the nerves better tomorrow.”
Although it was a while ago, Abbott knows a little something about overcoming final round jitters. It’s been nine long years since he last held a 36-hole lead of a big tournament, but the good news for the former professional mini-tour player is he proceeded to win the 2006 Adams Pro Tour Coca-Cola/Walmart Open in Alexandria, La.
Abbott, who regained his amateur status in 2011 after six years on the mini tours, jarred a 60-foot eagle on the par-5 18th hole to help him shoot a 2-under 69. He qualified for the 2015 Texas Mid-Amateur by virtue of one of his best finishes in TGA championships: a tie for eighth place at last year’s Texas Mid-Amateur at Escondido Golf & Lake Club
“I hit the ball very well today,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot more control of my golf ball. I didn’t have to scramble as much.”
On a confined, well-conditioned golf course that rewards tactical and accurate play, Abbott made 15 pars in the second round. He had one birdie, one bogey and the 60-footer for eagle he rammed home on the final hole.
“For as long as it was, it really didn’t have much break to it,” said Abbott, who in July advanced to the Semifinal Round of Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play Championship in Houston. “That green is hard enough to hit in two shots. I played the putt pretty straight.”
One shot behind Loving and Abbott is Fort Worth’s Will Osborne, another former Adams Pro Tour player. The former University of Arkansas standout shot a 1-under 70 to get to 2-under 140 overall.  
“This course will tell us who the best golfer is here,” said Osborne, who became an amateur again in 2014. “You have to hit it straight off the tee. With the firmness of the greens, you have to be in the fairway.”
Alone in fourth place at 1-under 141 is Zach Atkinson, the first round leader from Colleyville. The 2004 Texas Amateur champion had four birdies early in the second round, but he stumbled coming in. He played the final three holes bogey-bogey-double bogey to finish the day with a 4-over 75.
“I didn’t hit my irons as good today,” Atkinson said. “I wasn’t as sharp. I hung in there until that last stretch, though.”
At 1-over 143, Justin Kaplan from Houston and Brian Noonan from Austin are tied for fifth place. Kaplan shot a 1-under 70 in the second round; Noonan posted 1-over 72.
Fifty-four players made the 36-hole cut at 10-over 152 and advanced to Sunday’s final round.
At 7,078 total yards and a par of 71, the Royal Oaks course played a shade easier in Saturday’s second round. The stroke average was 76.78 on Saturday compared to Friday’s average of 77.69. The par-4 third and 13th holes remain the stiffest tests; each playing more than half a shot over par.
It’s been 46 years since Royal Oaks first opened for play. Originally was designed by J. Press Maxwell, Don January and Billy Martindale, the family friendly club’s course was renovated in 2013. The course received a multi-million dollar facelift by acclaimed Texas architect Chet Williams, who also designed the renowned Whispering Pines GC in Trinity.
After being closed for nearly 12 months, Royal Oaks recently reopened with its boldest transformation yet. In addition to other upgrades, all 18 greens were changed from bentgrass to the durable strain of Bermuda MiniVerde. Long considered one of North Texas’ supreme ball-striker’s layouts, Royal Oaks this weekend is playing host to its third TGA major championship. Previously, the club was the site of the 2010 and 1974 Texas Amateurs.
The final round of the 2013 Texas Mid-Amateur begins Sunday at 8 a.m. For more information, including complete scoring and Sunday’s tee times, please click here