By Steve Waters - Sun Sentinel
For many of the golfers competing in the Dixie Amateur, the 85th edition of the prestigious tournament is a proving ground.
For college players, it's a chance to test their games against fellow collegians that they don't get to face.
For 11 members of the Swedish national team, the tournament allows them to see how they handle the pressure of playing well.
And for Ryan Blair, the Dixie is a chance to play his way back to the upper levels of a sport he had given up.
So far so good, with Blair tied for the second-round lead at 4-under-par 140 with three Swedes and Clemson freshman Bryson Nimmer.
Eleven of the 141 players did not complete their second round Sunday at TPC Eagle Trace and will start where they left off at 7 a.m. Monday. They include Ben Feld, who shot a 5-under 67 Saturday at Heron Bay Golf Club to share the first-round lead with Nimmer. After they finish, Feld and the others will be inserted into the third-round pairings at Eagle Trace.
Nimmer, of Bluffton, S.C., who had five birdies and no bogeys Saturday, shot a 1-over 73 Sunday in breezy conditions at Eagle Trace.
He started on the back nine and had three bogeys over his first 15 holes, two of them three-putts, before rallying to birdie the 8th and 9th to get to 1 over.
"I didn't really have the speed of the greens very well," Nimmer said.
Hampus Bergman of Sweden, who had eight birdies and four bogeys Saturday for a 68, said he also had some trouble on the greens Sunday. But it was a shot from a fairway bunker on his first hole, the par-5 10th, that cost him the most.
After driving into the bunker, Bergman hooked his second shot out of bounds and took a double-bogey 7. He had two birdies and 15 pars the rest of the way to shoot 72.
"I played all right," said the 21-year-old, who is playing in only his second tournament since injuring his back 11/2 years ago. "Today was a little tougher than yesterday because this course is a little tighter than Heron Bay."
Hannes Ronneblad of Sweden followed his opening 71 with a 69 and said he handled the wind much better on Sunday.
"It was tough. I was not very happy with my approach shots yesterday. It was hard to figure out because the wind affected the ball so much," said Ronneblad, 21, a junior at Texas Tech. "Today was much better. It was really a solid round all the way through."
Ronneblad made five birdies Sunday, his longest putt about 15 feet. He also hit a wedge to a foot for birdie on the par-4 14th and sank a 3-footer for birdie on the par-5 15th.
Marcus Svensson of Sweden shot 69 at Heron Bay and 71 at Eagle Trace. He said both rounds could have been much better.
"I played really well, but I putted really bad today and yesterday," said Svensson, 17, who had 17 pars and one birdie Sunday, which came when he sank a 25-footer. "I had so many chances."
Blair is just happy he got a chance to play in the Dixie. He gave up the game two years ago after playing tons of junior golf, becoming a top high school player in Pennsylvania and then playing golf at Texas A&M.
"Golf became a job and it wasn't fun anymore," said Blair, one of the oldest players in the field at 25.
After college, he worked as a ski instructor in Aspen, Colo., and as a caddie and in a golf shop during the summers. He recently decided to give amateur golf another shot, with the ultimate goal of using that as a springboard to the PGA Tour.
He emailed Eagle Trace head golf professional Adam Webb asking if he could play in the Dixie and Webb signed him up. After Blair shot 69-71, Webb's decision is looking pretty good.
Blair, who made six birdies and three bogeys Saturday, birdied the 1st hole Sunday and had two more birdies and a three-putt bogey to go out in 2 under. He bogeyed the 11th and missed some makeable birdie putts, but still was pleased.
"I'm excited," Blair said. "Adam gave me the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully this tournament will open the door to more tournaments."
The field will be cut to the low 72 scores after Monday's round at Eagle Trace. Those who advance will play the final round Tuesday at Heron Bay and those who are cut can play in the ClubLink Cup, an 18-hole tournament to benefit Birdies for the Brave at Eagle Trace.
ABOUT THE Dixie Men's Amateur
Historic Florida amateur golf tournament
open to former Dixie Amateur champions,
tournament committee invitees and
major amateur championships.
The Dixie has a traditionally strong
field due to college break, and a
past-champions list that includes many PGA
players as well as top-ranked amateurs.
72-hole stroke play
championship with a 54 hole cut down to 72 players
and ties. The field
limit will be 108 players. Played
at Eagle Trace Golf Club. Apply for
an invitation at www.dixieamateur.com
View Complete Tournament Information