SOMIS, Calif. — Traveling the 50+ miles each way each day for the 116th SCGA Amateur Championship in order to spend time with his kids, ages 5 and 2, Newbury Park resident Nathan Celusta has thus far made the trips worth it. Putting together a three-round total of 7-under-par 206, Celusta, a member of Saticoy CC, is one round away from winning his first SCGA title.
Looking to be the first non-collegiate golfer to win the event since Kevin Marsh in 2008, Celusta followed up his impressive play Friday with a third-round score of even par 71. He came out of the gate hot, collecting an eagle on Oakmont CC's first hole to jump out to a five-stroke advantage over the rest of the field. But he would come back down to earth, playing the rest of the 17 holes in 2-over par.
Meanwhile, a couple of collegian golfers had stellar rounds, led by Pete Fernandez Jr. who just graduated from UC Irvine. Fernandez shot a tournament-best 65, playing bogey-free golf to jump into the event's Top 5. Fernandez sits in fourth place entering Sunday's action, six shots behind the leader.
And it looked like Jonathan Sanders would match Fernandez' score, blazing the front nine with two eagles to climb a number of spots up the leaderboard. The University of Washington golfer would stay right there, however, playing the back nine in 1-over par with a bogey on No. 18 to find himself four strokes behind Celusta.
"My two eagles on the front nine really helped me out, but I didn't hit the ball that well on the back," said Sanders. "The game plan tomorrow will be to try and go low early like I did today."
But not only will Sanders have to pass Celusta, he will also have to overtake Aaron Wise of University of Oregon, who remains in second place after Saturday's play. The Lake Elsinore resident kept the pressure on Celusta all day, finishing Saturday with a 1-under-par 70 to climb one stroke closer to the lead. Celusta and Wise will tee off at 9:30 a.m. in the tournament's final round of play.
All five of the competitors on top of the leaderboard are looking to put their name on the SCGA Amateur Championship trophy for the first time, trying to join the likes of Tiger Woods, John Merrick, Patrick Cantlay and Beau Hossler as winners of the prestigious event. Tee times on Sunday begin at 8 a.m., and the tournament is free and open to the public.