Golf: Wells takes 1-shot lead into final round of City Amateur

Luke Wells, 16, leads the City Amateur in Springfield by a stoke heading to the final round after last week’s spirited bid to win the Ohio Amateur. BILL LACKEY / STAFF
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Luke Wells, 16, leads the City Amateur in Springfield by a stoke heading to the final round after last week’s spirited bid to win the Ohio Amateur. BILL LACKEY / STAFF

Luke Wells, the 16-year-old wunderkind from Springfield High School, has an array of experienced golfers trying to chase him down in the City Amateur. But if their best hope of winning is that the pressure of a final-round lead gets to him, they’re probably out of luck.

Despite being drained from a spirited bid to win the Ohio Amateur last week — and feeling a little sleep deprived — Wells managed to maintain a one-shot lead going into the last 18 holes after carding a 3-over-par 75 for a 5-under 211 total Saturday at Reid North.

He’s one shot ahead of former City Am champion Zach Fowler, 35, who had the day’s best score of 72, and two in front of three-time Locust Hills club champ Jeff Hall, 24, who posted a 73.

“I don’t get intimidated that much,” Wells said when asked about his unflappable nature. “It’s just golf, and it’s me against the golf course. If I happen to be a couple shots worse than some other guy, oh well.”

The junior-to-be finished in a tie for fourth in the Ohio Am at his home course, Springfield Country Club. And while others were awed by his showing, he had a fitful night of sleep while mulling over a few Friday mistakes.

“I actually was disappointed that I didn’t finish the way I wanted,” he said, referring to a three-putt bogey on his 71st hole that ultimately knocked him out of a second-place tie. “I could have been runner-up and had a little better hardware.

“It was tough coming back today. I didn’t have any energy. I couldn’t get anything going. Hopefully, I can come back tomorrow strong.”

Scores were higher in the third round because of the wet conditions and especially the speed of the greens. Players often had to putt defensively on surfaces that resembled Corian counters.

The other three players in the final two groups had ragged finishes. Kyle Sine shot 75 and Matt Williams and Andy Bonar 77.

“It’s different the second weekend,” Fowler said. “They make it longer. The pins are tougher. A 72 is a lot better score than it would have been last weekend. And tomorrow will be even tougher. But it’s a great golf course in great shape.”

Hall, who finished in a tie for third last year, is a late bloomer. He was the No. 2 player at Shawnee High School behind future Ohio State star Clark Engle but never reached the state.

He works fulltime at Locust Hills while attending Clark State and has improved immensely.

“I’ve gained a little length. And my putting was OK in high school, but I’ve really practiced,” he said.

He’ll need a few more putts to drop to catch Wells, as will the rest of the field.

“He’s a wonderful golfer and wonderful kid, too,” Fowler said. “He contended in the state Am, which is a very big event. He played in the last group on the last day. And he played in the last group today. You can tell he was mentally tired.

“When I was his age, he would have beaten me 7-and-6 in match play. I’m older and have a little advantage because of experience, but this kid is awesome. You’d better get him now if you’re going to get him, because he’s just going to get better and better.”

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