Nicholas Reach had the hot hand in Friday’s third round of the 61st Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions.
Mother Nature cooled off Reach and the rest of the 80-plus player field as thunderstorms halted play at 3:11 p.m. with the leaders group just finishing tee shots on the No. 6 hole at the par-70 Sunnehanna Country Club. The round already had been delayed an hour in the morning as grounds crews dealt with a wet course.
“I went out to the range a little bit earlier in the morning to work on a couple things I wanted to fix,” said Reach, who made a birdie on No. 2 and followed with a crowd-pleasing eagle on No. 3. “I didn’t hit it that great (on Thursday). I’m pleased with the six holes so far. It definitely seems to be a lot better start than in the second round.”
The University of Georgia golfer from Moscow, Lackawanna County, stood at 3-under in Friday’s rain-shortened round and alone at 8-under overall on the Sunnehanna leaderboard.
Eleven groups completed play on Friday.
The remainder of the field will begin play at 8 a.m. today, with the final round scheduled to begin after completion of the third round.
Players at plus-9 or better will make the cut and continue into the final round.
“You have to make adjustments,” Sunnehanna Amateur co-chairman John Yerger said. “We want to make sure there is plenty of wiggle room and that players who may be right on the cusp clearly will play on the final day, which is important to them. We don’t want to undermine our credibility with the players, which is what the tournament is all about.”
Will Murphy, Doug Ghim, Sam Burns and Charlie Danielson each were at 4-under in the tournament when play was halted.
Lee McCoy, Rico Hoey, Trevor Cone and Nathan Smith each were at 3-under overall. Six players were tied at 2-under, and four more were at 1-under, including defending champion Steven Ihm.
Reach, Danielson and Smith, the 2011 Sunnehanna Amateur champion, played together on Friday and were on the sixth tee box when the siren sounded.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Reach said. “I really wanted to get this round in. But I’ll come out with good momentum to start the next round. Then you have to carry that momentum into the next 18.”
Reach had a solid start to his round with a par on No. 1 and a birdie putt on No. 2.
On the third hole, he made an eagle from 90 yards out. His shot from the fairway found the green near the pin and bounced into the hole as the small gallery cheered.
“I had a very bad angle on the right,” Reach said of the eagle. “I knew it as soon as I walked up to my ball. I just tried to let it trickle down the hill on the right. Fortunately, I just got a good break, honestly.”
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The birdie on the second hole also was impressive.
“I hit a really good drive down the middle of the fairway and I hit a 6-iron to about 8 feet to the right of the hole,” Reach said. “It broke quite a bit and it had a really perfect speed and went right in the center of the hole. It was a really good birdie.”
Smith bogeyed his first two holes but he hit his approach on No. 4 within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie.
“I think momentum is going to be a huge thing, especially with playing 30 holes,” Reach said. “As long as I can just get off to a decent start taking one shot at a time, but then also carry that momentum on to the next 18 holes that can really be to your advantage.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.