LAKESIDE, CA (July 9, 2016) -- Rico Hoey stood over the ball on the 18th green, needing to sink his 3-foot par putt to enter the final round of the 117th SCGA Amateur Championship with a 2-stroke advantage. But the 18th hole played to be the second most difficult one on the course, with a lake just left of the green and a beastly 484 yards to the hole on the Par 4. Hoey would miss just left of the hole, clear disappointment on his face.
The missed short putt, however, was Hoey's only blemish of what was a very impressive day that saw him break out of a five-way tie for first place to take solo possession of the lead with 18 holes to play at Barona Creek GC. What started as a a mediocre day for the the rising USC senior with seven straight pars turned into a barrage of birdies, as Hoey's clubs caught fire for a 10-hole stretch in which he played in 7-under par. The hot stretch began with an eagle on the short par-4 8th, when Hoey drove the front of the green before draining a 25-footer and letting out a subdued fist pump.
The eagle got Hoey rolling, and the current leader followed it up with two straight birdies. He would barely hit a bad shot the rest of the way, which was highlighted by a a long birdie putt on 17 that at the time gave him a 2-stroke advantage, his largest of the competition thus far. He posted a Round 3 score of 66, his second 6-under par round of the event, putting him at 14-under for the tournament.
But matching Hoey shot for shot all day was 18-year-old Clay Feagler, who also shot a 66, the lowest round of the day. Feagler, who is headed to Pepperdine to play his college golf in the Fall, had eight birdies in a round that included two bogeys, including one on the previously-mentioned difficult 18th hole. Feagler's round was highlighted by two different stretches of three-straight birdies, one on the front nine and one on the back. Feagler will look to become the first 18 year old to win the SCGA Amateur Championship since Tiger Woods did so in 1994.
The Championship is set up for a good finish, as there are a number of other players within striking distance. San Diego State's P.J. Samiere finds himself just three shots off the lead, after putting up an impressive 67 on Saturday, with 17-year-old SCGA Match Play Champion Dan Erickson just one behind that.
In jeopardy Sunday will be the tournament's scoring record, which is currently held by Scott Travers, who in 2010 found himself 16-under par at the conclusion of the Championship at La Cumbre CC. Travers snatched the record away from Woods' 15-under in `94.
The 44 players to make the cut after Friday's 36-hole affair will begin to tee off in the final round of play at 7:30 a.m. The final pairing of Hoey and Feagler will begin their round at 9:10 a.m.
A quintuplet of men find themselves at the top of the leaderboard after a long day of golf to kick off the 117th SCGA Amateur Championship Friday. With 84 players finishing 36 holes just before dark, a couple of sizzling rounds highlighted play at Barona Creek GC, where the Championship is being held for the first time.
The morning round was highlighted by Pepperdine's Roy Cootes, who shot the low round of the day, blazing the course for an 8-under 64. Cootes' impressive round included seven birdies, one eagle and just one lone bogey, putting him 2 strokes ahead of the rest of the field at the conclusion of Round 1. Round 2 got off to a good start for the for the Rolling Hills, Calif. native, as he went as low as 10-under par through six holes of the afternoon round. He would come back to earth, however, finishing his second round at even par, good enough for a tie for first place at the tournament's halfway mark.
Joining Cootes at the top is 2004 Champ Tim Hogarth, 49, who played consistently all day, putting together rounds of 69 and 67.
"I hit the ball well, and putted extremely well," said Hogarth. "That was probably the best I've putted in a long time."
Hogarth, who in addition to his one victory has four runner-up finishes in this event, had a bogey-free second round. The veteran had a chance to take the solo lead on the 17th hole, first getting a lucky bounce off the lateral water hazard stake that placed his ball in the middle of the fairway before just lipping out a putt that would have been his sixth birdie of the afternoon round. For Hogarth, another win in the event would mean a lot.
"Honestly, when I look back at my 20 years in the event, just having the one win is a little disappointing with all the close finishes," said Hogarth.
Also among the five to finish the day at 8-under par is USC star Rico Hoey, who fired rounds of 66 and 70. Hoey was streaky all day, starting his day with five birdies in six holes and then finishing it with three more birdies in five holes. His second round was much of the same, as the two-time All-Pac-12 honoree had a stretch that went birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle to catapult himself to the top of the leaderboard.
"I feel good," said Hoey. "This is my first time playing in the event, I don't know why, I wish I had played in the past, but I'm happy with where I stand and hope to just do more of the same tomorrow."
Former Cal State Fullerton golfer Mark Jensma and current Cal State Fullerton player Matt Wilson also find themselves joining the leaders at the top. Defending Champ Nathan Celusta finds himself 7 strokes off the lead at T17.
The top 42 players and ties advance on to Saturday's third round, with 44 players making the 36-hole cut. Tee times will begin