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Halfway Through, Russell Leads Vt. Am

Grantham's Evan Russell, from the New England Amateur at Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, Vt., last month. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

Grantham's Evan Russell, from the New England Amateur at Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, Vt., last month. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

Barre, Vt. — The usual order of progression would have had Grantham’s Evan Russell win the Vermont Golf Association amateur championship first before advancing to a New England Am crown. Mother Nature changed that, and now Russell is doing his bit to follow through.

With a 3-under-par 68 on Tuesday to go with Monday’s 69, Russell holds a two-stroke lead at the midway point of the Vermont Am. One of just four golfers at the Country Club of Barre to break 70 on Tuesday and the only one to break 70 for both days, Russell’s 5-under 137 is two better than host club golfer Eric Lajeunesse and three ahead of Jay Peak’s Bryan Smith, who torched Barre for a 6-under 65 in Tuesday’s second round to play himself into contention.

Russell — playing out of the Country Club of Vermont in Waterbury — had another five-birdie performance Tuesday, spreading them out over both nines instead of concentrating them on the back, as he did on Monday. Back-to-back birds on 6 and 7 brought him to 4 under for the tourney, and he reached 5 under when he followed a 13th-hole bogey by winning strokes back on 14 and 15.

Russell, a Kimball Union Academy graduate and University of Hartford golfer who won the New England Amateur three weeks ago at Killington’s Green Mountain National Golf Course, will start the first of today’s final two rounds with Lajeunesse off Barre’s 10th tee at 8:50 a.m. The final round is expected to kick off around noon, with the last handful of groups reshuffled to keep the leaders playing together.

The Vermont Am was scheduled for July 9-11 but was postponed because of wet conditions following 2½ weeks of rain leading up to the original play date.

Three other Upper Valley golfers made the 36-hole cut of 16-over 158. Lake Morey’s Ben Hayes shot an even-par 70 on Tuesday to reach a tie for 11th place at 8-over 150. J.P. Larkin’s Zach Temple is at 11-over 153, while Lake Morey’s Nate Choukas is at 155 following a second-round 76.