PALM HARBOR, Fla. – After a 5-under 66, Australian Tarquin MacManus took a one-shot lead at the Southern Amateur on Friday at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club. MacManus, who has one more (non-golfing) semester left at the University of Arizona, sits at 7-under 206.
Six other Australian players made the cut, including a number of MacManus’ teammates from the Australian national team. In all, players from 25 states and 11 countries were in the field at the beginning of the week.
“It’s great to have a few of my mates around,” MacManus said. “I’ve been at school for four years and don’t get back much, so any time I can catch up with the boys is nice.”
MacManus, who shot 67 in Round 2, tied the low round of the tournament Friday, making six birdies against a lone bogey at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, site of the PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship. The Southern Am winner gets an exemption into a different Tour stop: the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.
MacManus leads Georgia Tech’s Richy Werenski and UCLA’s Gregor Main, the 2009 Southern Amateur champion, by one shot.
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Memory lane: Chasing MacManus is Georgia Tech sophomore-to-be Richy Werenski, who shot a 3-under 68 Friday to move within a shot of the lead. Don’t expect Werenski to draw on any past victories to help him run down the Southern Am title tomorrow, though.
In fact, Richy . . . what was your last win?
“To be honest, I have no idea,” he said with a laugh. “It’s been a long time since I won anything significant.”
It’s certainly not for lack of trying. Werenski has been all over the amateur circuit this summer, playing in the Northeast Amateur, Sunnehanna Amateur, Dogwood Invitational and The Players Amateur, making the cut in all of them.
“I’ve been playing in a lot of good tournaments and I’ve been playing consistently, so I’ve just been finishing in the middle of the pack. This week, I’ve got some confidence and I’ve had some putts fall, so I’m in good shape.”
Werenski and the Yellow Jackets won plenty this year, climbing as high as No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Werenski entered Georgia Tech a semester early to get a head start on his academics, but he played a full season last year.
“It was absolutely awesome,” he said of his freshman season. “Playing with the caliber of players they have there – you can’t compare it to anything.”
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Thumbs up: Hunter Hamrick has to think really hard about whether he wants to hit a cut this week.
When he does, he knows that his broken right thumb will have something to say about it.
Hamrick, who is in fourth place and two shots back, broke the thumb three weeks ago. He dropped a shelf that he was moving for an electrician who was working on the Hamricks’ house after it was struck by lightning. He’s wearing a large wrap on the thumb this week at Innisbrook, which is his second full tournament back after the injury. Hamrick said the injury was much worse last week at The Players Amateur, where he tied for 15th.
“I guess I just shouldn’t be working,” Hamrick said with a smile.
Hamrick also had a rough time at the NCAA Championship, where he had mononucleosis, causing him to withdraw from all of his scheduled early-summer events.
On a scale of 1 to 10, he says the pain this week is about a 4.
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Walk the walk: The race to make the Walker Cup is getting increasingly tighter, causing Steve Smyers, chair of the USGA’s International Team Selection Committee, to be on-hand Friday, scouting players.
When asked whether this year’s selection was the most difficult in recent memory, Smyers paused and thought about it.
“They’re all tough,” he said simply. “We’ve got 10 spots, and there are probably 20 guys that are eligible.”
Main, Blayne Barber, Harris English and Patrick Rodgers are just a few of the Walker Cup hopefuls playing this week at Innisbrook.
“I would hate to be the committee trying to select the team because there are a lot of guys that you could make cases for either way,” said Barber, who is tied for eighth after a 69 on Saturday. “It’s fun to be a part of, though, and it’s going to be a good team, regardless.”
“At the end of the day, (U.S. captain) Jim Holtgrieve has a very good grasp of the players. It really is more of a team event than you’d think,” Smyers said. “Jim and I will talk, and we’ll blend chemistry together to make a decision.”
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Classy move: The Southern Golf Association makes it a point not to limit its event to only the top Division I college stars, and for the second straight year, it’s looking like a good move.
Tain Lee, of Division III Claremont Mudd-Scripps, shot 66 in Round 2 to get to within three shots of the lead. Lee, who won the Division III NCAA Championship and was named Division III Player of the Year in 2010, is tied for eighth after a third-round 73.
“Even if it’s not Division I, it’s still good golf that these kids are playing, and since we have enough spots in our event, it’s great to give them a chance,” said Clarke Rheney, director of competitions for the Southern Golf Association.
Lee also shined the last time he was on a stage typically reserved for Division I stars. After leading through 36 holes at the Western Refining All-American Classic, Lee finished runner-up to Alex Ching of the University of San Diego.
“A lot of tournaments don’t want to give D-II and D-III guys a chance, but it’s great when they do,” Lee said. “There are obviously a lot of D-II and D-III guys that can play. It’s nice to take advantage of it.”