SOMIS, Calif. — With the sun setting over the mountains and the majority of competitors already at home, Nathan Celusta stepped up to his ball just off the green on the 9th hole at Oakmont CC, just looking to collect his par and head home for some rest. On what was his 36th hole of the day, and 18th of the round, Celusta chipped his sixty-footer into the hole to take a three-stroke lead into Round 3 of the 116th SCGA Amateur Championship.
"I would have been thrilled with a four there. A three was just a bonus," said Celusta.
The 38-year-old Saticoy CC member outlasted the competition Friday, putting together rounds of 67 and 68 on the par-71 course for a 36-hole total of 7-under-par. With greens rolling fast and winds picking up late in the day, Celusta, who had the second-to-last tee time of the day, hit the ball consistently all day and relied on a hot putter to take the Day 1 lead.
"The superintendent that works here at Oakmont used to be at my home course of Saticoy, so the greens just felt really familiar to me," said Celusta. "I didn't come here to survive, I came here to win. And my game plan will be to come out here tomorrow and try to do the same thing."
Celusta found himself a stroke off the lead after Round 1, with University of Oregon sophomore Aaron Wise shooting Friday's low score of 66. Wise played his opening 18 holes in bogey-free fashion, carding five birdies with no blemishes. He would open Round 2 the same way, collecting birdies on his first two holes. Two late double bogeys would bump him out of the lead, but the top ranked golfer in the field finds himself in contention heading into Saturday's action. Wise is trying to become the seventh straight collegian to win the event.
But so far, the mid-ams are holding their own. In addition to Celusta, Corby Segal and 2004 Champion Tim Hogarth also find themselves in the Top 5. Matching Hogarth's two-round total of 2-under-par is 2015 CIF/SCGA SoCal High School Champion Norman Xiong, who also sits T4.
Saturday's action will get started at 8 a.m., with the low 42 scores and ties advancing on to Round 3. The low 43 ended up making the cut. The tournament will wrap up Sunday.