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Chatty Washington native takes lead at Pine Ridge

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As he seeks to break new ground in his pro career, Chris Killmer said it will be easy to tell if he’s in any comfort zone this weekend at the Players Cup.

"I think you can ask anybody out here; I talk more than anyone," said the halfway leader at Pine Ridge, who went low on Friday with a bogey-free 64 to take a four-shot lead over a band of chasers. "I like to stay loose out there.

"We’ll find out (if I can keep doing it). I think if you see me tighten up and not talk, there’s probably issues. I just know that coming to know myself as a player, when I’m talking, that’s not only when I’m playing well, that’s when I’m relaxed."

The native of Bellingham, Wash., has any number of things on his mind these days, including trying for his first pro win. The second-year CanTour player has one top-10, that last year.

He’s also getting married on Aug. 11.

"My fiancée is very supportive," he smiled. "Alyssa (Ryan) is very patient with me. I get off the course and there always usually an email asking me to do something and I get to it about five days later.

"She’s been great."

Killmer stayed out of trouble all day Friday and punctuated the day with a stuffed short-iron approach to the par-4 sixth, his 15th, for an easy birdie to get to minus-12.

The same can’t be said for first-round leader Alex Quiroz, who shot a brilliant 65 the first day and a not-so-brilliant 78 Friday to miss the cut by one stroke.

"It’s only Friday," Killmer said. "To be honest, coming into the week I was looking to make the cut. I think we’ll look to do a little more.

It feels good to play another weekend."

The closest rivals starting today will be Philadelphia native Vince Covello and B.C.’s Darren Wallace. Both played well to reach eight-under 134 after Friday’s morning draw.

Wallace was the youngest-ever Canadian Amateur champion in 2004 at the age of 15. He, too, is looking for a CanTour breakthrough, and his first win, in his second season.

A Friday 65 was a good move in that direction.

"I try not to think about it too much. It’s been a little while," the 23-year-old from Langley, B.C. said. "My success was like 10 years ago.

"I always think about it, jokingly of course, like ‘Man I wish I could be the player I was when I was 13,’ I hit the ball so much straighter.

"The improvements I’ve made compared to how I was then, the potential is a lot better. It’s whether you can play to the potential or not.

"Today, I played to the potential. It was nice."

He started the day with a nice birdie on the par-3 10th and carried his momentum throughout the day.

"Had a 25-footer that hit the hole with some speed," he laughed. "Luckily it hit the centre of the hole but it got me off to a good start.

"It was solid, a good round. The putter worked."

Covello, who led after 36 and 54 holes here two years ago, will try to put his experience to use over the weekend. And find his first CanTour win as well.

"It’s nice being back in a good position again," he said. "All you can do is handle what you do. You can’t control what anybody else does. So you just play as hard as you can for the next two days. That’s my plan."

In 2010?

"I played OK," he said. "I didn’t play terrible golf. I just didn’t play super-sharp golf. I got left in the dust a little bit. I finished three or four back and I had a three-shot lead for 36 holes. Aaron Goldberg played great on the last two days and got it done. So power to him."

Three more players are tied for seventh at seven-under, including Florida’s Jon McLean (68 Friday), San Jose’s Mark Hubbard (67) and L.A.’s Micah Burke, who has not made a bogey this week with 68 and 67.

At six-under are Ontario’s David Lang, who won Monday’s qualifier, and Matt Richardson of England.

Sarnia, Ont.’s Matt Hill, who won last week in a playoff, is in the top-10 at five-under.

Three Manitobans made the cut of even-par 142, Tyler Mancini (139), former champ Rob McMillan (140) and amateur Josh Wytinck (141). Wytinck is the first amateur to make the cut since Matt Johnston in 2007.

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