Nicholas Thompson recently learned he doesn't have the stamina of a telethon host, and playing rounds of golf with the haste of a one-hour photo lab isn't necessarily a good thing.
So Thompson took a step back from golf for a while but took a step ahead of other golfers Thursday and toward Spencer Levin on the Porter Cup leader board. The neon buzz Levin created in the prelude to the 46th annual event didn't lose much voltage following second-round play at Niagara Falls Country Club. Levin remained in first place at 8-under 132. Thompson is second, three strokes behind, at 5-under 135 after shooting a 2-under 68 on Thursday.
"I just need to putt it a little bit better, then I'll be ready to go," said Thompson, who is from Coral Gables, Fla., and is a business management major at Georgia Tech. "I'm hitting the ball really good, and if I can get a couple of more putts to drop I'll draw some low numbers."
Trent Leon of Dallas is one stroke behind Thompson at 4 under. Tripp Davis of Norman, Okla., who tied with Levin for the first-round lead, sunk into a seven-way tie for fourth at 3 under after shooting a 3-over 73.
Kyle Hess, the former Nichols School and University of Richmond golfer, shot a 1-over 71 and slipped into a tie for 30th place at 1 over. Jay Lindell of Lakewood rebounded from a 74 Wednesday to shoot 1-under 69. Lindell is in 45th place at 3 over.
During a recent 30-day period after a junior season in which he earned third-team All-American honors, Thompson played 34 rounds of golf and competed in seven consecutive tournaments. His passion for the game drove him, and the idea behind the rapid-fire approach was to remain sharp. Instead, Thompson was exhausted and decided to take a two-week break.
"I needed some relaxation time away from everything, like golf, school," said Thompson, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion in the spring who shot even-par 280 in last year's Porter Cup. "I did a little bit of golf during that time, but no hard-core practice. I just casually hit some golf balls or played a few rounds, but I didn't worry too much about golf."
Thompson visited New York City for the Fourth of July weekend and spent time with his girlfriend and family in Florida. But in his first tournament back from hiatus last week in South Carolina, Thompson was unspectacular with a 6-over, 37th-place showing in the Players Amateur.
"It was really, really hot, and I just didn't putt good at all," Thompson said.
That isn't the case at the Porter Cup. Wednesday, he was 3 under. Thompson followed that with a 2-under 68 after shooting 33 on the back nine. Five birdies on the back left Thompson within striking range of Levin.
Levin, the top amateur finisher in last month's U.S. Open, was a blur Wednesday but returned closer to the pack Thursday with a 68. He three-putted three times, including No. 16, but rebounded with birdies on 17 and 18.
"I played pretty solid and I hit the ball pretty good, but I wasn't as close to the hole as I was (Wednesday)," Levin said. "Three three-putts never helps, but I did make some nice 3- and 4-footers, and I made those two putts coming in, which made the day feel a lot better."
Levin credits his consistent play of late to a new putter. His old one was swiped just before the U.S. Open.
"It fits perfect," he said. "It doesn't work perfect all the time, but it fits perfect."