Ohio Amateur: Sipe takes 5-shot lead into final day

Austin Sipe of leads the Ohio Amateur by five strokes heading into the final day of competition at Springfield Country Club. BILL LACKEY / STAFF

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Austin Sipe of leads the Ohio Amateur by five strokes heading into the final day of competition at Springfield Country Club. BILL LACKEY / STAFF

Austin Sipe didn’t play it safe with a downhill putt on the last hole of the third round in the Ohio Amateur at Springfield Country Club on Thursday, making a bold attempt at birdie even though he’d have a hard time keeping the ball on the green if he missed.

He watched intently as his 20-footer rolled past the cup and kept trickling toward the edge, stopping inches short of catching a slope that would have sent it on a 30-yard journey down the fairway.

“At one point, I thought I did putt it off the green. But in my mindset, I wanted a birdie. I wanted to end on a good note,” he said. “I didn’t really think it was that fast, but it was. We’ll remember that tomorrow.”

The Centerville resident and son of Moraine Country Club pro Brent Sipe missed his 12-foot comebacker, but that aggressive approach helped him shoot the low round of the day with a 3-under-par 67 and build a five-shot lead with 18 holes to go.

Luke Wells, the 16-year-old phenom from Springfield High School, carded a 68 and is alone in second at 3-under. Grant Godfrey of Delaware, Ohio, is another two strokes back in third, while Wittenberg grad Garrett Brickley and Cincinnati native Brennan Walsh are eight behind at even par.

Sipe, who earned second-team All-Horizon League honors as a senior at Wright State last season, knows he has some quality players on his tail, but he’s relishing the chance to fend them off.

“You’ve gotta love it,” he said. “From the start, you just enjoy the challenge.

“It’s just golf. Nothing really fazes me at all. It’s just a game.”

That’s what his golf instructor, Kevin Jones, sees as his greatest strength. Jones also works with Wells and believes his prized pupils both have intangibles that can’t be taught.

“Once you get to a certain point, the skill levels are about the same. What separates those guys is maturity level. I call it golf IQ,” he said.

Wells’ unflappable nature was on display after a wobbly start. He bogeyed two of the first four holes, but the SCC member recovered by making an eight-foot eagle putt on No. 5.

“I’ve played this course 100 times. Wherever I go, I’ll think, ‘Oh, I’ve been here before, and I can hit it here and be fine.’ I’ve felt really comfortable,” he said.

“I know it’s going to take a real low number, but it’s totally doable out here. It’s soft. The greens are fast but not unplayable. If I leave myself below the hole a lot tomorrow, and if I reach the par-5s, I feel I can make a lot of birdies and get back.”

Only one player as young as Wells has won the Ohio Am, which started in 1904. Wayne High School product Michael Bernard did it at 16 in 2010.

Unlike most contenders, Wells is playing without a caddie — a sign that he doesn’t need a steadying influence while he competes.

He’s also leading the Springfield City Am, which will conclude this weekend at Reid North.

“He’s mature beyond his years,” Jones said. “He’s very composed out there. He’s improved so much over the last year and a half. He swings it great. He’s a great ball-striker and a hard worker.”

Jeff Scohy of Bellbrook had a 69 for a 212 total and is tied for sixth. Clark Engle, who played at Shawnee and Ohio State, shot 71 and is tied for 11th.

The field was cut after the third round to the top 40 players. The leaders tee off today at 9:40 a.m.

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