Texas State Am: Will Zalatoris takes two shot lead
Will Zalatoris
Will Zalatoris

DALLAS—Will Zalatoris decided it was time to go on the offensive at Brook Hollow Golf Club. It was a good plan. Brimming with confidence, Zalatoris shot 4-under-par 67 in the third round of the 105th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity and holds a two-shot lead headed into Sunday’s final round.

"Today we took a little more aggressive approach into the pins,” said Zalatoris, the 17-year-old Plano resident. "We did a really good job of flighting the ball, taking some spin off and getting it closer to the pins.”

The strategy resulted in five birdies against a lone bogey. Through 54 holes, Zalatoris sits comfortably at 7-under 206. Second-round leader Stratton Nolen, 19, from Austin and 16-year-old Mason Greenberg from Southlake are tied for second place at 5-under 208. Nolen suffered his first over-par round in tournament play this summer with a 2-over 73. Greenberg shot his second straight 2-under 69.

Andrew Ertel from The Woodlands and Andrew Presley from Fort Worth are tied for fourth place at 3-under 210. Ertel, a junior at the University of Houston, shot even-par 71 on Saturday. TCU senior Presley, who shared a piece of the lead after the first round, shot 1-over 72.

Thomas Birdsey, the 2012 Texas Amateur champion, shot 71 on Saturday. He’s in sixth place alone at even-par 213.

For Zalatoris, the week at historic Brook Hollow has been an extension of one the best stretches of golf in his life. It started in March when he shot a 13-under 59 at the Lakes at Castle Hills in Lewisville. While his friend Justin Thompson filmed it with his phone, Zalatoris poured in a 20-foot eagle putt on the final hole to reach golf’s magic number. They uploaded the clip to YouTube.com for friends and classmates to see.

"That was huge for my confidence,” said Zalatoris, a two-time TAPPS Class-5A state high school champion at Trinity Christian Academy in Addison. "I didn’t know what my score was until Justin told me in the 18th fairway.”

A month later, he won the Champions Invitational in California by a whopping 11 shots. The national tournament annually draws 230 of the top high school players in the country. In 2011, Zalatoris shared co-medalist honors there with PGA Tour winner Jordan Spieth. Zalatoris and another young PGA Tour winner, Rickie Fowler, are the only two to repeat as champions at the prestigious event.

"I’ve put in a lot of work on my game, and it’s starting to pay off,” Zalatoris said. "It’s like I jumped on this bus and it just keeps rolling.”

He hopes the journey continues tomorrow with victory at the most celebrated amateur golf tournament in Texas. Not one to obsess over the scoreboards, Zalatoris said he won’t change his strategy regardless of how things transpire.

"I’m just going to keep playing my game,” he said. "If someone goes low and wins, then more power to them. But they’re going to have to go pretty low to beat me.”

Nolen, who on June 1 won the TGA State Public Links title, and Greenberg, a two-time Starburst Junior Golf Classic winner, are in the best position to sneak past Zalatoris if he happened to stumble.

"There are 18 holes to play and anything can happen,” said Greenberg, who on Saturday made a 30-foot birdie by bellying a wedge from off the sixth green. "I feel pretty good about where I am. It’s pretty cool to be in contention at such a big tournament.”

Along with Birdsey, two past Texas Amateur champions made the 36-hole cut after Friday’s round. Colleyville’s Zach Atkinson, the 2004 victor, is tied for 11th place at 3-over 216. Defending champ Doug Manor from Dallas is tied for 32nd at 8-over 221.

Three Brook Hollow members also made the cut. Stephen Summers, the 2013 club champion, is tied for 44th place at 10-over 223. His head professional, Simon Buckle, caddied for Summers on Saturday. Joey Mundy, who got into the field in the Host Club Last Chance Qualifier is tied for 54th place at 12-over 225. Copley Broer, the club’s 2013 stroke play champion, is 57th at 13-over 226. - See more at: http://www.txga.org/Planos-Zalatoris-Leads-Texas-Am.news#sthash.bKrGvnTS.dpuf

ABOUT THE Texas Amateur

72 hole medal play walking-only championship first played in 1906. At the completion of 36 holes the field is cut to the low 54 and ties plus all players within 10 strokes of the lead.

18-hole qualifying rounds are held throughout the state for players not otherwise exempt into the tournament proper. Visit the Texas Golf Assocation website for qualifier information.

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