Kelly Kraft powers USA to lead at Spirit International Amateur

TRINITY, Texas (Nov. 4, 2011) -- The U.S. Team waited for the sun to come out to shine.

  On crisp, sun-splashed day at the top-ranked golf course in the state, the Americans took advantage of sublime playing conditions to erase a three-shot deficit in the third round of at The Spirit International. Riding a back- nine birdie barrage by Emily Tubert and a clutch, 13-footer for birdie on the final hole by Kelly Kraft, the U.S. squad takes a three- shot lead into Saturday’s final round atWhispering Pines Golf Club.

  “It was just perfect out there today. You couldn’t script a better day,” said Tubert, the Arkansas sophomore from California who birdied the 11th, 12th, 15th and 17th holes to lead the U.S. charge. “You could really go at the flags and be aggressive.”

  The U.S. finished at 9-under-par 135 for the day to push its three-day total to 20-under. The Americans are three shots clear of Denmarkand four past Argentina. Both the Danes and Argentines matched the U.S. in round three with 9-under 135. Canada, which started the day with a three-shot lead over the 20-team, international field, fell into a tie for third with Argentina. Canada posted a 2-under 142 in the third round.

  The final round of the sixth playing of The Spirit International begins Saturday at 8:30 a.m. By the end of the day, gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to players in five competitions: International Team, Men’s Team, Women’s Team, Men’s Individual and Women’s Individual (Final round tee times and live scoring are available at www.golfstat.com.)

  After a slight frost and temperatures in the mid-30s Friday morning pushed back the tee times one hour, the mercury began to rise. And the scores dropped. By midday, it was sunny and 70 degrees with just a hint of a north breeze. It had to feel like a bit of heaven compared to Thursday, when 30- mph gusts of wind made the mid-50s feel 10 degrees colder.

  The field of international star amateurs that includes 75 national champions and top- ranked players in their respective countries took advantage. Five different teams held leads at one point on Thursday. Canada started the day on top, but Germany caught fire and had it to 11-under through 13 holes to take the lead for a stretch.

  After Kraft hit it to a foot on No. 9 and kicked in the birdie, while Tubert birdied the 11th and 12th, the U.S. joined Korea and Germany for a brief three-way tie for the lead. Denmark’s Kasper Estrup and Thomas Sorensen combined for four birdies on the back nine to the top of the leaderboard until the final U.S. rally down the stretch.

  “In the six-year history of this event, we have more teams with a shot to win the gold medal for the International Team competition than ever,” tournament director Eric Fredricksen said. “This is the closest Spirit by far.”

  For more than four hours, the German team played beautifully and looked to be in total control of the 72-hole best-ball stroke play event. Marcel Schneider and Benedict Staben displayed flawless teamwork with seven combined birdies through 16 holes. Neither German birdied the same hole.

  It fell apart on the par-5 17th, however. Staben found the water on his approach and Schneider flew the green from 100 yards. They finished with a double-bogey on the hole. That was unfortunate, but it was worse a group ahead. The German women both hit into the water on the diabolical par-4 18th and finished with a triple-bogey.

  In just 20 minutes, the team dropped five shots. The sequence dropped Germany from 17-under par and the lead to 12-under. The Germans will start the final round in sixth place.

  “We feel nothing,” said a dejected Lara Katzy, who made two birdies on the day for Germany. “It feels like a big, empty hole… and we fell into it. But we will come back tomorrow. We know we can make birdies. We have to.”

  Kraft’s four birdies for the U.S. ran his individual count to 10 on the week. The reigning U.S. Amateur and two-time Texas Amateur champion is tied with Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes and four others for the lead in the Men’s Individual competition.

  “We feel really good,” Kraft said. “We’re on top. We were three shots back and now we’re three ahead. Hopefully we do the same thing tomorrow and by the time we get to the 18th hole, maybe we can have a little fun.”

  About The Spirit
The 2011 Spirit International features 80 participants from 20 countries representing six continents. Country teams are comprised of national amateur champions and top- ranked players. The format of play for the competition is 72 holes of Four-Ball Stroke Play. The men’s and women’s Four-Ball score is combined for the International Team competition. There is also a separate men’s and women’s team and individual competitions.

View results for The Spirit International Amateur Golf Championship

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