BLUFFTON, S.C. (July 13, 2014) — Hunter Stewart says he has grown in the four weeks since he finished third at the Monroe Invitational.
The Vanderbilt University standout felt his lead dissipating on the final day of the elite amateur tournament in New York and started taking chances. He finished four shots behind the winner.
Stewart learned a lesson that day and put it to use Saturday, maintaining his lead at the Players Amateur at the end of the third round despite a late double bogey. He will try to keep it going in the final round today on Berkeley Hall Club’s South Course, where he has a one-shot lead on California’s Michael Weaver.
“I made a bad swing and had a double bogey in the middle of my round,” Stewart said of his struggles in New York. “I started going for flags and doing some dumb stuff.”
Stewart led Weaver by three shots Saturday before he took a penalty stroke at the par-4 15th on an unplayable lie.
He two-putted for double-bogey, allowing Weaver to pull within one stroke.
But Stewart, 20, gathered himself and played the final three holes at 1 under par to turn in a third-round 70.
He sits at 14 under overall, with Weaver at 13 under after shooting 3-under 69.
The duo is five shots ahead of the field. Chase Koepka of South Florida is third at 8 under.
Alabama teammates Bobby Wyatt and Tom Lovelady are tied for fourth at 7 under.
“To play the last three at 1 under, all in all, I was pleased,” said Stewart, who birdied the par-5 17th and closed with a par.
Weaver, 22, said he is better prepared to play in today’s final group than he was at this time last year. The Cal senior was in contention after two rounds at the 2012 Players Am, but he shot 5 over in the third round and fell to 13th.
Though he spent much of the back nine hitting out of thick rough, Weaver picked up a shot Saturday on Stewart, who entered the weekend with a two-stroke lead.
He was 1 under for the round through 11 holes, but made birdie on Nos. 12 and 17 to take advantage of Stewart’s double on 15.
Before last year’s Players Am, Weaver said, he had not been in contention at a high-level amateur tournament. He has appeared in two majors, the Masters and the U.S. Open, already this year.
“I’d had some good results, but not great,” Weaver said. “But I’ve been playing steady and been in the mix a lot. It’s something you grow comfortable with over time.”