Round two of the Neediest Kids Championship played harder, faster, and tougher – perfect conditions as it turned out for a pair of players from Fargo, North Dakota.

While most in the field were in retreat at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, two Fargo natives climbed the leaderboard. Josh Persons, a Monday qualifier playing in his second Web-com Tour event, shot a 2-under-par 68, while Tom Hoge, a rookie, fired a 5-under 65, the best round of the day.

“It was work. It’s a tough golf course,” Persons said. “I was in survival mode the entire day.”

Persons (65-68 – 133) is a stroke behind leader David Lingmerth (66-66 – 132). Also a stroke back is Canadian Brad Fritsch (67-66 – 133). Hoge (69-65 – 134) is two back, tied with Australian Bronson La’Cassie (67-67 — 134). Play continues through Sunday in Potomac.

Lingmerth, a 25-year-old native of Sweden who played at the University of Arkansas, made eight birdies on Friday to overcome a triple-bogey at the signature 11th hole, a 470-yard par 4. The second-year player on the Tour ranks No. 27 on the money list. With a big pay day in the Neediest Kids, Lingmirth could assure his spot in the top 25 for the season and advance to the PGA Tour next year.

The 35-year-old journeyman Fritsch, never a member of the PGA Tour, also is on the money-list bubble, ranking No. 21. There are three more events remaining this year on the Tour.

After lift, clean, and place was allowed on the saturated fairways of Avenel on Thursday, the sun shined brightly from dawn to dusk. The course dried out quickly and showed its teeth. In the first round, 20 players shot 67 or better. On Friday only six players achieved that standard.

First-round leader Jason Gore felt the sting of Avenel more profoundly than anyone. After opening with a 63, good for a two-shot lead, Gore skied to a 77 on Friday. It wasn’t the biggest swing, however, as Kevin Foley shot the worst score of the day (84) after posing a 67 on Thursday.

The story however on Thursday was the play of the North Dakota duo. When they’re home, Persons, 28, and Hoge, 23, often play together. They’ve dined out this week. Persons is a graduate Fargo North who played college golf at Kansas State and Minnesota. Hoge, from Fargo South, graduated last year from Texas Christian.

“We beat each other up when we’re home and it’s fun,” Persons said. “It’s a good city to grow up in if you want to play golf.”

Persons in on a roll. In the last round of his last mini-tour event, he shot a 9-under round. On Monday at Laurel Hill, Persons shot a 64, the best qualifying score. With a good finish at Avenel, Persons could find a temporary home on the Tour.

“My best friends from home call me nomad or gypsy,” Persons said. “I play a little bit everywhere — Gateway, Dakotas, E Golf. I try to Monday out for these. I get around quite a bit. It’s nice to get in one and play well.”

Persons fell out of a golf cart at this time last year and suffered a broken elbow, derailing his Q-School chances. His plan for this fall was to head back home to get ready for Q-School, but a good finish in the Neediest Kids would alter his plan.

“I was going to go home to Fargo and practice for two weeks before I go to Q-School,” Persons said. “We got a couple inches of snow yesterday so I’m lucky I’m having a good week here and able to play.”

After taking the first-round lead with a 63, Jason Gore shot a 77 on Friday as TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm played harder and faster. / Photo by Kevin Dunleavy