Becker reclaims solo lead at Northeast Amateur

Rafael Becker took the first-round lead at the Northeast Amateur.

RUMFORD, R.I. – Rafael Becker had an up-and-down even-par 69 Friday, but it was enough to put him back on top of the leaderboard alone in the 52nd Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club.

Becker, a Brazilian who earlier this spring finished his college eligibility at Wichita State, stands at 6-under 201. That gives him a two-stroke advantage over Patrick Rodgers, Cory Whitsett and Cameron Wilson going into Saturday’s final round.

The only other players under par after three rounds on this Donald Ross-designed classic course – all at 1 under – are Ollie Schniederjans, Joseph Winslow, Max Homa and Bo Andrews.

Becker’s round consisted of four birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. Rodgers had four birdies and a pair of bogeys; Whitsett offset his three birdies with as many bogeys; and Wilson came in with a pair of birdies, a double bogey and two bogeys, including one on the final hole.

“I just couldn’t find the putts today,” said Becker, who won four times for the Shockers this past season. “I had some good looks (at birdie), but my speed was not good.

“I hit some really good shots coming down the stretch so that’s something positive I’ll take into tomorrow,” said Becker, the outright first-round leader after a 7-under 62 and co-leader with Wilson at 6 under after two rounds. “I just need to keep trying to stay in the present.”

After 10 holes, Wilson, at 6 under, held a one-shot edge on Becker. Then came a big, three-swing hole. At the par-4 11th, Wilson made double and Becker made birdie. Up ahead, Rodgers birdied Nos. 13 and 14 to get to 4 under and into the thick of things.

A birdie at 14 put Becker at 7 under and gave him a three-stroke cushion over Rodgers and Wilson. But on a hole that he birdied each of the first two rounds – the par-3 15th – Becker gave two of those shots back with a double bogey. He closed with a birdie at the course’s lone par-5, No. 17, to finish at 6 under overall.

Whitsett, who did not have a bogey his first two rounds, joined the 4-under fray with a two-putt birdie from 60 feet.

“I botched a few holes early on, but I played pretty well coming in,” said Whitsett, who helped lead Alabama to the NCAA championship earlier this month. “This is one of my favorite tournaments. I really love this place and feel comfortable out here. I really didn’t do anything special out there today, but managed to just hang in there and that was the key.”

Rodgers, a junior at Stanford and first-team All-American, saved his best for last when he drained a 30-foot putt for birdie from just off the green at the 18th.

“That (final putt) capped off a pretty crazy day. It was just a tough day out there,” said Rodgers, a 2011 U.S. Walker Cup team member. “The course was very demanding and a real challenge. But overall, I played solid and shooting 2 under I feel is pretty good. I like where I stand right now and I’m excited about tomorrow.”

Rodgers and Becker are in the final twosome in Saturday’s final round with Wilson and Whitsett, a pair of lefties, are one group in front.

It took a score of 9-over-par 216 to make the 54-hole cut of the 50 low scorers and ties with 52 players making the grade. Among those who won’t be playing in Saturday’s final round are Mike Miller (+10), Pat Christovich and Gene Elliott (+11), Cam Andrade, son of PGA touring pro Billy, (+18), 10-time Wannamoisett club champion Charlie Blanchard (+20), and former U.S. Mid-Amateur winner Austin Eaton III (+22).

Blake Biddle, who plays at UNLV, had the day’s lowest round, a 5-under 64. However, that came after previous rounds of 79-76 and he missed the cut at 12-over 219.

For the three rounds, the par-69 Wannamoisett course played to a 71.919 scoring average. The hardest hole has been the 505-yard, par-4 No. 2 with a 4.42 average, followed by the 438-yard, par-4 No. 4 at 4.35. With little surprise, the easiest hole was the 558-yard, par-5 No. 17 with a 4.85 norm.

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