Gann takes the lead at Georgia Amateur; Columbus' Robert Mize makes up ground

mlough@macon.comJuly 12, 2014 

GolfAm

JASON VORHEES/THE TELEGRAPH Macon, GA, 07/12/2014: Stan Gann Jr. watches his tee shot on the Par 4 13th hole at Idle Hour Club during the Georgia Amateur Championship Saturday.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com

Stan Gann Jr. joked about being an old man competing with kids.

One of those kids, Kelby Burton, was anything but youthful in describing his day.

"I hit it horribly," Burton said. "I scrambled pretty well. That's what kept me in it, I guess.

"I hit it pretty bad. I was in trouble about every hole."

Their scores were closer than their demeanors, Burton having surrendered the lead to Gann late in the third round of the Georgia Amateur Championship at Idle Hour Club to set up an interesting Sunday.

The two played together Saturday, with Zachary Healy, who slipped back to a tie for 12th.

And Gann and Burton wil be in the same group on Sunday, joined by Mercer standout and Gatewood graduate Trey Rule, the first-day leader who is in a three-way tie for third place. The trio will tee off at 10 a.m., two hours after the first group.

Gann's 66 gave the Bonaire resident a 6-under-par 204 while Burton's 71 dropped him to 207, still good for second.

Matt Mierzejewski and Robert Mize are tied with Rule at 208. Carter Collins, Georgia Southern's associate head coach, and Brad Davis are the only other players at even or better after 54 holes.

"This course, I swear," Mierzejewski said with a smile after shooting his second 69 of the tournament. "It looks so easy on paper. And yet, you play well and shoot 69, under or around par, and you're like, 'I could have shot so much better.'

"At the same time, you're happy. I just grinded my tail off."

Grinding was the order of the day, although often unsuccessfully. Two dozen golfers were 5 over or worse, with four at 10 or 11 over, compared to 15 even or below par.

The biggest change on the leaderboard involved one of the up-and-comers. Steven Fisk, who has committed to Georgia Southern and will be a senior at Stockbridge this fall, had a nightmarish third day. He had two bogeys and six birdies through 36 holes and was in a three-way tie for second.

Saturday started with a bogey on No. 1 and ended with a bogey on No. 18, and Fisk had seven more in between, managing a lone birdie on No. 12 for a 78. That dropped him to 12 back at 216 and among eight tied for 24th.

Chris Waters' 77 dropped him from the top 10 to the group at 24th.

Sepp Straka matched Gann's 66 as the best round of the day, and that lifted him from nine back, 5 over and tied for 36th, to a tie for eighth. Tim Arnoult Jr.'s 67 put him on the fringe of contention after two rounds and a 146. He's tied for 12th, nine back.

Burton led by two to start the day,and was still on top through the first nine.

Things started change at the turn. Gann countered five straight Burton pars with three birdies and two pars. Then Gann parred the 629-yard 15th while Burton bogeyed, giving Gann a two-stroke lead he expanded with a birdie on No. 18 after Burton bogeyed No. 17.

"I was in the woods on probably nine or 10 holes," said Burton, who plays at Kennesaw State. "The first two days, I hit it OK and putted it OK. (On Saturday), I putted better than I did the first two days, but I just hit it really bad."

Gann estimated he hit 17 greens in regulation.

"A little shaky to start with, just a little off," he said. "I got it going on about 6 and started hitting a lot of fairways."

Gann, Jacob Joiner (211, tied for eighth) and Christopher Harris (214, tied for 18th) are the only players among the top 18 to improve their scores each day.

Rule and Mize were among those who improved their scores by five shots from Friday to Saturday.

"I just had no birdie putts, makeable birdie putts, on the front nine," said Rule, who went from the lead at 5 under Thursday to a round of 4 over Friday. "It was a grind out front. Finally I was able to get a couple birdies on the back side and make a few putts going in."

Mize had a goal and reached it.

"I had two double-bogeys (Friday) and a double the day before," the son of Larry Mize said. "The goal (Saturday) was to cut out the doubles. I was making the birdies, I was making the putts. Just the big number would come in.

"That was killing me."

No more. Mize had fewer birdies Saturday (two) than the first two days (five each), but he had more pars (14 to 10 and eight), only one bogey and no doubles.

He also came up with one of only nine eagles so far, on No. 10. He's the only one of the players under par to manage that feat.

"I haven't been in contention for a while, so it's fun, absolutely," he said. "But it's nerve-wracking. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I wasn't nervous."

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