PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Lefty Edward Loar rolled in a six-foot birdie putt on his final hole Friday afternoon to take a one-stroke lead after 36 holes of the Panama Claro Championship. Loar finished the day with a 2-under 68 and stands 6-under after two trips around the Panama Golf Club.
Brian Smock rolled in three birdie putts of 30 feet during a round of 64 and shares second-place at 5-under 135 with Justin Bolli (70), who was paired with Loar for the first two days.
New Zealand's Tim Wilkinson (68) is in fourth place, two shots back of Loar and Texan Martin Piller (71) is three behind the leader.
"It's always nice (to be leading) because it means you're playing well," said Loar, who holds the lead for the first time in 40 career starts on the Nationwide Tour. "There is still a lot of golf left on a very challenging golf course."
Loar is finally getting to play in 2012. The former Oklahoma State standout earned his PGA TOUR card last fall but has gotten only four starts to date and made only one cut.
"I felt like I needed to get some more rounds in," said Loar, who will return to the PGA TOUR next week in Puerto Rico. "I did a little bit of everything today. I hit a lot of nice shots. I made some nice putts early but then had a couple goof-ups in the middle but closed with that birdie."
His biggest mistake came at the par-4, 14th hole where he made double-bogey despite having a wedge in his hand for his second shot.
"I caught a flier and it sailed over the green. I knew I was going to have a hard time making four but I never should have made six," he said. "It's pretty tough to control your distances out here. I'm not used to play for my wedges to run out. These greens are tough."
Bolli missed a 12-footer for birdie on the closing hole which could have given him a share of the lead. Instead, he's one back.
"The greens were getting really firm toward the end of the day," said Bolli. "I made some putts today but I just didn't putt as good as I did yesterday. I made a couple mistakes tee-to-green that cost me."
Bolli left a bunker shot in a bunker and made bogey at No. 6 and then hit a tee shot in a hazard on the next hole and made double. He still managed to hole enough putts to stay near the lead. He was at 6-under and leading when he three-putted the 17th to fall back into a tie with Loar.
• Friday's weather: Mostly sunny and windy. High of 88. Winds N-NW 7-14 mph
• A total of 77 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 4-over 144. In the tournament's inaugural year in 2004, the 36-hole leader was also at 6-under par and the cut came at 4-over par. Jimmy Walker went on to win that year with a 7-under 273 total.
• This the eighth time in nine years that that cut has been above par. In 2008, the cut was 5-over.
• This is the first time that Edward Loar has held/shared the lead after a round in 40 career starts on the Nationwide Tour. He has never led after a round in 14 starts on the PGA TOUR.
• First-round leader Justin Hicks fired a 5-over 75and stands at 1-under 139 (T10).
• Head professional Mike Norman missed the cut this week after posting scores of 76-79 -- 155.
• Diego Velasquez opened his round with four birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes. He wound up shooting a 6-under 64 after a 75 on Thursday.
• Nationwide Tour rookie Joseph Bramlett of Stanford advanced to the weekend with rounds of 75-68 -- 143. Bramlett was a rookie on the PGA TOUR last year and finished No. 196 on the money after making 12 cuts in 25 starts. This is only his third Nationwide Tour start -- he missed the cut at the 2011 Albertsons Boise Open and also at last week's Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open.
• Three former champions were entered in the field this week and two made the cut:
• The 36-hole cut hovered at 3-over par during most of the day. A few late mistakes moved the line to 4-over and gave 19 players bunched at 4-over par a chance to play the weekend. Among those benefitting from the late change:
• Bogey-free rounds Thursday: 65 -- Justin Bolli, 66 -- Martin Piller; Friday: 68 -- Michael Sim
• Ryan Armour owns the course record -- a 9-under 61 in the second round last year.
• The 72-hole record is 15-under 265, set by winner Fran Quinn in 2010. Mathew Goggin's winning score last year was 11-under 269.
• Scoring averages for the week:
• The Nationwide Tour will head to Santiago, Chile for next week's inaugural Chile Classic presented by Pacific Rubiales at the Prince of Wales Country Club March 5-11.