FRIDAY, JULY 13: Salisbury, N.C. – Former Web.com Tour member Michael Sims of Bermuda entered the second round of the eGolf Tour’s eighth annual Southern Open in a tie for 91st place following a first-round 71 at tournament host The Club at Irish Creek on Wednesday. Sitting roughly four shots outside of the projected cut line, Sims birdied his first eight holes at co-host Country Club of Salisbury on Thursday morning en route to a tour-record-setting 12-under 59 that vaulted him into solo-second place entering Friday’s third round.
Sims, a former University of Rhode Island standout and Web.com Tour member in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011, entered day two at the Donald Ross-designed Country Club of Salisbury course playing alongside Henrik Norlander of Sweden and Kevin Foley of Somerville, NJ. Sims, known for his ability to get hot quickly on the golf course, did just that out of the gate in the second round.
Starting at the par-4 first in the morning’s 9:03 AM pairing, Sims birdied his first eight holes – four of which came via putts 10 feet or longer – prior to flying the green at the par-3 ninth and getting up and down for the first par of his round.
The early barrage of birdies gave Sims a tour-record-setting 8-under 27 on the opening nine, and sent him to the closing nine at Salisbury in need of a 4-under effort to match golf’s magical number.
A birdie at the par-4 10th took Sims to 9-under on his round, but then gave way to a four-hole stretch of pars that kept him three birdies shy of the 12-under mark needed to reach 59.
Those three birdies came courtesy of an up-and-down at the par-5 15th, a 22-foot birdie putt at the par-4 16th, and a tap-in birdie at the narrow par-3 17th, that all combined to move him to 12-under on the day with just one hole to play.
“I thought I needed to make a birdie at the last hole to shoot 59,” said Sims, who had temporarily forgotten Salisbury’s par of 71. “Nothing would have been different if I had known I just needed a par for 59, I was trying to make a birdie either way.”
A perfect tee shot on the downhill par-4 closing hole left Sims with 126 yards to a front-right hole location. A 54-degree wedge hit to 15 feet set up what he thought would be one final birdie try to break 60.
“I hit that birdie putt and left it a few inches short and thought, ‘You have to be kidding me,” said Sims after his round. “When the guys in the group congratulated me, I remembered that it was a par 71. Pretty surreal feeling.”
Sims’ record-setting day bettered the tour’s previous best of 60, set by former Web.com Tour member Dustin Bray in the first round of the 2009 Walnut Creek Open in Goldsboro, NC.
The 12 birdies recorded by Sims in the second round are chronicled below:
No. 1: Hybrid, 54-degree wedge, 7 feet
No. 2: Driver, 58-degree wedge, 17 feet
No. 3: Driver, 4-iron, two-putt
No. 4: 3W, pitching wedge, 16 feet
No. 5: 3-iron, pitching wedge, 7 feet
No. 6: 8-iron, 5 feet
No. 7: Driver, pitching wedge, 20 feet
No. 8: 3-iron, 54-degree wedge, 10 feet
No. 10: 3-iron, pitching wedge, 10 feet
No. 15: Driver, 5-iron, flop shot, 2 feet
No. 16: 3W, pitching wedge, 22 feet
No. 17: 5-iron, 3 feet
“I think 59 is the best I’ve ever played,” joked Sims after his round. “What’s cool is that the 27 on the front nine is my lowest by two. I shot 29 out on this tour a few years ago.”
Sims’ 59 bettered his previous best tournament score of 63, and helped to ignite a 2012 campaign that had slipped in recent weeks.
After posting three top-6 finishes in his first eight starts on the year, the 33-year-old Sims had missed three of his past four cuts entering the week at the Southern Open – including each of his last two.
“I knew I had a good one in me, I didn’t know it was going to be 59,” said Sims, currently 19th on the eGolf Tour money list. “There was a point out there where it felt like it was going to be a low round, and it just kept going.”
The 59 was four shots clear of the next lowest round carded at the Country Club of Salisbury on Thursday, as Brad Brunner of Tampa, FL and Cam Burke of Ontario, Canada each posted rounds of 8-under 63 on day two.
Entering the scoring area, Norlander, a three-time “All American” at Augusta State and key member of the Jaguars’ back-to-back NCAA Championship teams, referred to Sims’ opening nine as the best he had ever witnessed. Foley, currently 71st on the Web.com Tour money list, concurred.
“It was pretty cool to see a 59 that could have been a 58 or even lower. It was a pretty smooth round. It wasn’t like he chipped in or made a 70-footer,” said Foley, currently second on the eGolf Tour money list. “It was the hottest start I’ve ever seen, and from there it finished off pretty well at the end. It was impressive.”
Word of Sims’ round spread quickly via social media outlets, as did photos of his head shot – complete with grown-in mustache. The affable Bermudian was without doubt one of the more popular characters during his years on the PGA TOUR’s developmental circuit, and has more than held his own as a player favorite on the eGolf Tour.
“I’m more nervous right now talking to you. I was really calm all day,” said Sims, a self-proclaimed free spirit. “It’s a weird thing. It’s just a really weird thing.”
Sims made 94 career starts on the Web.com Tour, collecting four top-10 finishes and $184,295 in earnings. His best finish was a tie for ninth, recorded three times, at the 2011 Price Cutter Charity Championship, the 2009 Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the 2009 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
The current St. Simons Island, GA resident will enter the final two rounds of the Southern Open trailing 18- and 36-hole leader Drew Weaver of High Point, NC by one shot. The final 36 holes of the event will be contested solely at The Club at Irish Creek in Kannapolis, NC. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge. For more information, please visit www.egolfprofessionaltour.com, or follow updates on the tour’s Twitter page (@eGolfProTour1).