While Stan Gann Jr. grabbed the lead in the Georgia Amateur Championship with a third-round 66, Eatonton product and Mercer standout Trey Rule put himself back into contention with a 69 to sit only four shots behind Gann.
Rule, who led after the first round, started slowly on the front nine, going 2 over, but he got things going on the back with birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 15. After a bogey on No. 17, Rule came right back on the difficult 18th hole, sinking a 20-foot birdie putt to end the day on a positive note.
The front nine was definitely a grind, but I finally was able to start hitting the ball better and giving myself a chance to score on the back, said Rule, who was sporting his customary orange Mercer shirt. The birdie on the 18th was big for me, because I had given one back on 17. This is my first state amateur, and there is a great mix of college and older players, and all of them are strong players. I have been able to come from behind before, and hopefully I will be able to build on what I did on the second nine.
Other local golfers did not fare as well Saturday. John Walker IV, who shot 68 on Friday, came in at 74 and is in a tie for 21st place, while Shawn Hodge shot 73 and is tied for 24th.
Rising Georgia senior Sepp Straka struggled Friday with a 5-over 75 but came back strong Saturday with a 66 and is tied for eighth, seven strokes behind the leader.
Straka used an eagle on the par-4 13th and a birdie on No. 14 to get back into contention. His round could have been even better, but his drive on the 317-yard par-4 10th hole rolled off the back of the green, and he was only able to make a par.
I liked it when I hit it, but I really ripped it, and I guess it was a little too good, Straka said. But still I should have been able to get up and down and make birdie. I think I still have a shot at winning, but it will take a great round on Sunday to have a chance.
Straka said he is enjoying playing in Macon.
Macon is a huge Bulldog town, and I always get some followers because I play at Georgia, Straka said. Even though this is an individual tournament, and its the summer, I always know that I am representing my school in any tournament I play in. I will definitely be wearing some Georgia colors on Sunday.
Carter Collins admits he doesnt get to play nearly as much as he used to, but the adrenaline still flows when he gets a chance to play in a tournament.
Collins, who is the associate head coach at Georgia Southern, has played consistently during the first three days, with scores of 70, 69 and 70. He is sixth, only five shots behind Gann.
I dont play as much as I do when I was in college, but I did have three or four days to try and knock some of the rust off my game, Collins said. I remember when I used to be the young guy in these tournaments, and now at 31, I am one the older guys. I am pleased with the way I have played so far, and for the amount that I play, this is what I have right now. I am always around the game when Im coaching, and I will grab a putter or a wedge and hit a few, but playing golf comes behind spending time with my family and coaching and recruiting these days.