JOHNSTOWN, Penn. (June 11, 2011) -- Nerves won’t be the only things tested in the final round of the 58th Sunnehanna Amateur.
As it turns out, some friendships will be on the line when the final group tees off.
The same trio who comprised the last group Saturday – Will Collins, Jace Long and Lee Bedford – will be the last group in the final round after Collins posted a 66, Bedford a 69 and Long a 71 in the third round at Sunnehanna Country Club.
Collins will enter the final round of the season's first major amateur tournament as a two-shot leader at 11 under, using a 31 on the front nine to sprint past Long and Bedford. Long was never able to get things going with his 1-over round, while Bedford used birdies on two of his first three holes to keep Collins from running away with it.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever made that many birdies in a bunch,” said Collins, who’ll be returning to the University of Virginia this fall for the last year of a five-year masters program. “The problem was, today I didn’t make any more after that.”
But he didn’t make any bogeys, either, and has the lead over good friend Bedford. The two grew up about 90 minutes from each other in North Carolina: Collins in Salisbury and Bedford in Cary.
“We played a lot of junior golf together and are good friends,” said Bedford, who couldn’t find nearly as many birdies as he did in the 6-under 64 he shot Friday. “It will be fun trying to get out there and put some heat on him tomorrow.”
Collins and Bedford have some room at the top of the leaderboard, but nothing that should make them feel comfortable.
Long was hanging with his playing partners until he came to the par-4 No. 8, where a bad tee shot set him up for an eventual double bogey. He had two bogeys and two birdies on the back nine to finish at 1 over on the day and 7 under for the tournament.
Zac Blair of Ogden, Utah, started the day at 2 under but made birdies on four of five holes in the middle of the round and finds himself a shot behind Long and five behind Collins.
Brad Hopfinger of Lake Forest, Ill., shot 69 and is 5 under for the tournament.
Three players - Kelly Kraft (69) of Denton, Texas, first-round leader John Peterson (70), the recent NCAA champion from LSU and Fort Worth, Texas, and Nathan Smith (70) of Pittsburgh - are 4 under.
The attention in the final round, however, will be on Collins and Bedford.
“The way I look at it, pressure is what you make,” Collins said. “If you’re just out there having fun, then it’s easier to play good. When you come down to those last few holes, it can get a bit scary. But you have to just go play like you did to get to that spot and do the best you can. If you’re having those butterflies on 16, 17 and 18, you know you’ve done pretty well.”
“I’ve played a lot of competitive sports, and I like being in this situation,” he said. “I look forward to it. I enjoy having people watch. I enjoy performing under pressure.”
• History was made Saturday at the Sunnehanna Amateur. Richard “Skip” Berkmeyer, a mid-amateur from Wildwood, Mo., made the first double eagle in the history of the event. He holed out his second shot on the 519-yard par 5 11th with a 4-iron from 225 yards. He had received relief from a line in a patch of new sod. It was the fourth double eagle in the club’s history. The double eagle helped Berkmeyer post a 68 and move to 1 under for the tournament.
• Sunnehanna CC grounds superintendent Ben Little said the course had softened some overnight because of a lack of wind, and the scores proved that. Thirty players, three more than Friday, posted scores in the 60s.