Auburn junior Carson Bacha (Conner Penfold photo)
Auburn’s Carson Bacha
shot a 7-under-par 65 Friday in the Dogwood Invitational at Druid Hills Golf Club to become the new leader at 16-under going into the final round scheduled for Saturday.
Bacha will take a two-shot cushion into the closing round on the hilly course outside downtown Atlanta over local favorite Bartley Forrester
, a Georgia Tech standout who fired an 8-under 64 in round three to move into second-place on the leaderboard at 14-under through 54 holes of the championship.
But by no means will the final 18 holes simply be a two-player battle for one of the most prestigious titles in amateur golf as the summer schedule starts in the Atlanta suburbs. There are plenty of challengers lined up to chase the tournament crown at Druid Hills where birdies filled scorecards on Friday.
“Out here with so many birdies being made, a two- or three-shot lead doesn’t really do you much,” Bacha noted. “So, we’re gonna come out tomorrow with the same game plan and just try to put together another really great round. It’ll just be about playing some good, quality golf.”
The other 12 players that make up the top 10 on the leaderboard are all within seven shots of the lead, while four are within five shots including Forrester, whose 8-under score is the tournament’s low round through the first three days.
RELATED: Round 2 Recap
Four golfers are tied for third at 11 under. That group includes last year’s Georgia Amateur champion Harris Barth
who just completed his senior year at Westminster in Atlanta and is set to play college golf at Furman starting this fall. He posted a 5-under 66 on Friday.
“I really hit the ball well today,” he said. “I hit 18 greens. I definitely left a few shots out there, but I am hoping to save them for tomorrow.”
Also starting Saturday’s round at 11-under will be Midwestern State’s Jake Doggett
who shot 67 on Friday, and Wake Forest golfer Scotty Kennon
who carded a 68.
Four players are tied for sixth at 10-under. This group includes Illinois sophomore-to-be Jackson Buchanan
who led the field after each of the first two rounds. Buchanan, who is from nearby Buford, settled for an even-par 72 score on Friday and now finds himself six off the lead after holding a one-shot advantage going into the day.
He was disappointed after signing for his score. “Today, I didn’t feel as comfortable over the ball as I usually am,” he said. “I didn’t strong-side the ball, which is keeping the ball on the right side of the pin. So, just leaving shots out there like that, that changes a 68 to a 72.”
The large field was cut to the low 40 players after Friday’s round. The cut came at 4 under.
Bacha had gotten off to slow starts in the first two rounds, but that changed Friday afternoon. He made birdie on the first after sticking his approach shot inside five feet, tying for the lead after starting just a stroke back of Buchanan.
He assumed a three-shot advantage at the turn with four more birdies including three in a row to close the outward nine in 31 strokes. Bacha would birdie three of his first six holes on his inward nine before making a bogey on the par-4 16th hole when a errant drive clipped a tree and landed in the woods. He finished out his day with pars on the last two holes.
“My wedges have been great all week,” he said. “I was really happy with the way I played the front nine today. I just executed better earlier than I had the first two days. I had a lot of momentum going into the back nine and made some great birdies back there.”
Bartley Forrester tees off on the fourth hole during the third round of the Dogwood Invitational. (Conner Penfold photo)
Forrester also was spectacular with his wedges and his putter, too. He made a trio of birdies on the front nine to go with an eagle-3 at the par-5 seventh hole when he rolled home a 20-foot putt. On the back, the Georgia Tech senior made three more birdies while completing his bogey-free round.
“I was really solid all-around,” Forrester said. “I just really kept the ball in front of me all day. My wedges were much better today. They weren’t that sharp the first two days, and I made some putts on top of that today, too.”
Forrester wasn’t the only player to card a 64 on Friday. Earlier in the day, Alex Heffner
who plays for Davidson posted that same score. Heffner’s card showed six birdies, an eagle and 11 pars. He made his eagle at the par-5 14th.
Heffner is among those tied for 10th at 9 under.
Alabama’s Canon Claycomb
matched Bacha’s 65 tally earlier in the day. He made a early charge to draw some attention as he shot up the leaderboard, making seven birdies over his first nine holes to go to the back nine within five shots of the lead at that time. He started the day at 2-over after shooting 73-73 in the first two rounds.
But, he quickly slowed down on the back side with back-to-back bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes. Claycomb did make two more birdies to play the back nine in even par and finish 7-under for the round and 5-under for the tournament to get inside the cut line.
On the Wall:
Hanging on a hallway hall between the golf pro shop and an adjacent snack shop is a picture that commemorates the appearance of golfing great Byron Nelson at Druid Hills Golf Club which was built the same year that Nelson was born.
On March 31, 1946, club members paid $2 to see Nelson face off against legend Ben Hogan in an exhibition match at the club. Hogan led Nelson by a stroke at the turn and ended up winning the match by four shots after shooting 66 while Nelson shot 70.
In August 2006, Nelson wrote a letter to Druid Hills to congratulate the club on its recent renovation and reminisced about the match against Hogan. Nelson died a month later.
“I was always impressed with the design and condition of the course, and was always treated very well when I came for an exhibition or just to play,” Nelson wrote in his letter to the club. “Of course, I remember the match with Hogan in the early ‘40s, and always knew I had to be at my best to play him, whether in a tournament or just for fun.
“Again, my sincere good wishes for the continued success of your club, and thank you for mentioning me in your book.”
On to Round 4:
The Dogwood field is comprised of mostly collegiate players, a sprinkling of mid-amateurs and senior players and a few players who are getting set to play collegiate golf as freshman in the fall.
But, there is one golfer in the field who will still be in high school this fall playing at Druid Hills this week. And, he will be playing in Saturday’s final round also after making the cut right on the number.
from Pinehurst stands at 4-under-par after three rounds. He has posted scores of 75-65-72 over the first three days of play. Sandhu isn’t your typical high school standout, though. He had more wins than he has fingers and toes before he became a teenager.
He took his first golf swing in front of a mirror at age 3 and started hitting balls on the range at age 4. Sandhu was competing at age 6.
He has already won over 100 tournaments including two Future Masters, three U.S. Kids European Championships and also 16 U.S. Kids Regional Championships.
The 2022 Dogwood tournament marks the 25th anniversary of Steve Scott’s victory in the 1997 tournament.
Until he won the 30th edition of this tournament, he was best-known as the player who surrendered a 5-hole lead to Tiger Woods and lost the U.S. Amateur.
Scott, the No. 1-ranked amateur and 19-year-old student at Florida, shot 68 in the final round and finished at 15 under to win by two shots over Jeff Klauk.
Scott was touring the 15th hole Saturday and then-co-leader Justin Roof was back on the par-5 14th. Roof made a judgment error with his second shot that turned into total disaster.
Trying to hit an 8-iron over the trees instead of something safer after a drive into the right rough, Roof clipped the trees and dropped into a thick bunch of bushes. Taking a rip at the ball, Roof only mashed it further into the thicket. After taking an unplayable lie penalty, Roof punched out, found the front of the green and two-putted for triple-bogey 8.
The 1995 Dogwood champion from Conway, S.C., Roof dropped three strokes to 12-under and never recovered.
"I gave it to him," said a shaken Roof. "I made the stupidest play I've ever made in competition. I could have thrown it out to the 160-yard mark. I never should have tried to go over the trees. I don't mind playing bad, but when you give somebody a golf tournament, there's no excuse for that. Steve played a great round, but he shouldn't have won."
Roof tied Georgia Tech's Bryce Molder for third at 276. Tech's Matt Kuchar was fifth after a 69, a stroke ahead of Georgia's Mark Northey of Roswell (67) and Augusta's Charles Howell III (68).
Scott, of the University of Florida, was added to the Dogwood field when he failed to get a sponsor exemption to the PGA Tour's St. Jude's Classic in Memphis and Texas' Brad Elder withdrew. "I've got to kind of let this soak in," Scott said. "This is very satisfying."