COLUMBUS — If the Georgia Amateur Championship was a boxing match, a promoter would have been hastily placing fight posters around Columbus late Saturday night.
Those posters would read something like this: “English vs. Henley II” or “English vs. Henley: The Rematch.”
A year after their memorable duel on the back nine at Idle Hour Club, Macon’s Russell Henley will again be grouped with Georgia teammate and roommate Harris English in the final round of the Georgia Amateur with both searching for their second state amateur championship.
Henley, who carries a three-shot lead, is hoping to become the first person in 25 years to repeat as the tournament champion, while English would like to add this year’s championship to his 2007 title.
“I’ll tell you that we’re going to have a lot of fun (today),” Henley said. “We had a great time last year. Both of us will pull for each other to play well, and we’ll see what happens.”
“We definitely want to beat each other,” he said, “but we want each other to play really well.”
Both players shot 67s on Saturday at the Country Club of Columbus to claim the top two spots on the leaderboard, but Henley carries a three-shot advantage into the final round after beginning Saturday’s third round at 8 under.
Henley carded his third consecutive sub-70 round by firing a 4-under-par 67 on Saturday.
The Georgia star moved to 12 under for the tournament, three shots ahead of English. Two-time Georgia Mid-Amateur champion Jeff Knox will also be in the final group after a 67 got him within four shots of Henley. The trio played together in last year’s third round. Henley played with Knox the first two days of this tournament, while English was grouped with Knox on Saturday.
“It’s a great group,” Henley said. “It’s great playing with Harris. He’s one of my best friends. I love playing with Jeff Knox. He is a great guy and a great player. We’ll have fun.”
Henley birdied four of his first six holes Saturday but had to grind during his final nine to stay at 4 under for the round. He had difficult par saves at the final two holes that following a short par putt on No. 16 and a 30-foot birdie on No. 15.
“To come through with pars on those made me pretty happy,” said Henley, who has three-putted once through 54 holes. “The lie on (No. 18) was one of the worst I’ve had all week. Just had some bad breaks. But it felt really good to get pars on those holes, and that birdie (on No. 15) was big.”
Henley’s back nine contrasted his front nine, where he couldn’t seem to do any wrong.
A day after posting a 30 on his first nine holes, Henley made four birdies through six holes and had birdie chances on the other two holes.
But he bogeyed two of the first four on the back nine, picking up two birdies through six holes to get his score back to 12 under.
“I felt like I had it going all day,” said Henley, who has seven consecutive rounds below 70 at the tournament. “But there are just times when you make a birdie and times when you don’t. ...Maybe I can do it on both sides (today).”
English caught fire on the back nine, rolling in four birdies to go with a bogey after playing the front nine at 1 under.
David Noll Jr. and Michael Green, Henley’s playing companions Saturday, are five shots back of the lead. No other golfers are within eight shots of the lead.
Bleckley County’s Joe Young shot a 68 on Saturday to get to even par for the tournament and into a tie for 11th.
The final group will tee off at 10:20 a.m.