Anders Albertson never played Sunnehanna Country Club before this week, but the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champion from Georgia Tech quickly found the course to his liking.
“This course rewards you for striking the ball well,” Albertson said Saturday following the conclusion of his third round at the 60th Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament for Champions. “You have to putt well here, too. The greens are tricky. It’s an awesome course.”
Albertson played well enough through the opening two rounds that he sat six strokes back of co-leaders Steven Ihm and Tom Lovelady at 3-over par.
He felt a better round was coming. It happened Saturday.
Albertson played bogey-free golf and was one of several players who made significant strides up the leaderboard. He birdied Nos. 1, 9, 11 and 13 for a 4-under 66 that moved him to 1-under (209) with four others .
“I played well all week, even in my practice round,” Albertson said. “I played the same today as I did the first two rounds, but I got a couple putts to fall.”
Albertson’s fit for Sunnehanna hasn’t paid off on the scoreboard through two rounds, though he sat just six strokes back of co-leaders Steven Ihm and Tom Lovelady at 3-over.
Joining Albertson at 1-under are Rick Lamb, Mike Miller, Jordan Niebrugge and Anthony Paolucci.
Niebrugge, like Albertson, made a big move upward on Saturday. He carded six birdies, including four on the back nine to finish 3-under for the round. Lamb overcame a triple bogey on No. 6 where he hit a tree then found a bunker.
An eagle on No. 11 and five birdies helped Brad Valois move from plus-7 to 3-over following his round of 66.
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Past champions: University of Alabama standout Bobby Wyatt, the nation’s top-ranked amateur, won’t become the first back-to-back champion at Sunnehanna since Ricky Fowler claimed titles in 2007 and 2008.
Wyatt finished the third round with a 2-over 72, giving him a total of 221, which missed the cut. Things started well for Wyatt, who eagled the par-4 No. 3, but he was unable to overcome an opening day score of 79.
Pittsburgh native Nathan Smith, the 2011 champion, carded a 70 and made the cut with a three-round total of 216.
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When you’re smiling: Sunnehanna Club Champion Joe Cavalier has one piece of advice for recent Richland High School graduate and Greater Johnstown Open champion Brady Moran: Smile more.
Cavalier, who shot an 81 and failed to make the cut, is Moran’s orthodontist. Moran carded a 75 Saturday and finished at 227. Cavalier finished at 242.
“It would be good for me, a chance to show off my work,” Cavalier said jokingly. “Brady’s a flat-liner. He’s stoic and that’s probably a reason why he’s great at all the sports he plays. You could never tell if he’s having a bad day or a good day.”
Moran did give his caddie, Pat Lennon, a grin after he sunk a par putt on No. 18, which gave him difficulties on Friday. The putt was part of a strong finish for Moran, who reached the green on the tricky final hole after his drive landed in the left rough.
Moran also made a nice par putt on No. 17, which drew applause from his sizeable gallery.
“It was awesome. It was an honor,” Moran said. “I’ll do this any time they give me an opportunity.”
The tournament marked Moran’s first appearance as a player, but he’s no stranger to the amateur.
In 1999, a picture appeared in The Tribune-Democrat of a 3-year-old Moran enjoying the competition. He also caddied the tournament twice for J.T. Griffin.
Two of his brothers, Connor and Ryan, served as caddies for other golfers, and big brother expects his siblings to follow his footsteps as future Sunnehanna Amateur qualifiers.
“I’m a little scared because they’re going to be very good if they stick with it,” Moran said.