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Sewell Maintains Lead at 107th Texas Amateur

SAN ANTONIO—Chad Sewell is 18 holes away from making history at the 107th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity.
The 17-year-old Conroe High School senior holds a one-shot lead through 54 holes over 2004 champion Zach Atkinson of Colleyville. If Sewell closes the deal Sunday at historic Oak Hills Country Club, he’ll become the youngest winner the storied championship’s 107-year history. He began Saturday’s third round with a one-stroke advantage over Atkinson. After 18 holes under a sweltering sun that emitted temperatures in the high 90s, that’s where they finished.
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Sewell and Atkinson battled the heat and A.W. Tillinghast’s thoughtful and challenging course design to shoot rounds of 1-under-par 70. Through three rounds, Sewell stands at 6-under 207; Atkinson looms at 5-under 208. When asked about his thoughts on breaking the record Plano’s Will Zalatoris set in 2014 by winning the 105th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity at 17 years, nine months and 29 days old by about two months, Sewell played it close to the vest.
“I’m not really thinking about that,” said Sewell, who finished his third round with three threes—birdie, birdie, par. “I’ve been playing without any expectations. I’m sure it’ll be a pretty nervy first tee shot tomorrow, but after that I’m sure it’ll be OK.”
Cool words from someone standing on the threshold of history. Perhaps it’s his youth and inexperience—this is his first start in a men’s amateur tournament—or maybe he just possesses the innate confidence needed to win the most celebrated amateur tournament in the state.
“My philosophy today was to get to the 13th hole at even-par for the day or 1-under,” he said.
He almost made it. Sewell made bogey on the treacherous par-3 13th to send him to 1-over for the round. The hole is the finisher of a three-hole stretch considered the toughest part of the course by Oak Hills members. Saturday the 13th played 218 yards with a back-left hole location, which was just a few paces off an edge that drops to a water hazard. Sewell rebounded with birdies on the 16th and 17th.
Atkinson, a 34-year-old father of two who works for his family’s electrical construction company, said he was impressed with Sewell’s steady play. For his part, Atkinson played extremely well early in the early going. Three birdies without a bogey on his first 10 holes got Atkinson into the lead at 7-under. It didn’t last, however. He bogeyed the long, par-4 11th and 12th holes and suffered a third bogey on 14.
“If I’m going to catch Chad tomorrow, I’m going to have to come out and get off to a good start and not fall asleep in the middle of my round like I do sometimes,” said Atkinson, who celebrated his wife Ashley’s birthday Saturday evening. “On this golf course, you can’t let up or lay down.”
Chasing Sewell and Atkinson are Travis Vick from Houston and Fred Wedel from The Woodlands. They’re tied for third place at 4-under 209. Vick, a 16-year-old sophomore at Houston Second Baptist, shot 2-under 69 in the third round. He made six birdies and could usurp Sewell and Zalatoris as the Texas Amateur’s youngest winner with a low round Sunday.
“I had it going pretty good early,” said Vick, who plays varsity golf, football and baseball. He also recently qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur later this summer. “Chad looks pretty solid out there. I don’t see him falling off the leaderboard. If I can get to 8-under tomorrow, that would be a good number.”
Wedel, a recent graduate of Pepperdine who advanced to the Semifinals of the 2014 U.S. Amateur, posted a round of 1-under 70. He either got the absolute most out of his round or he’s his own worst critic. For the second straight day, he labored to find positive comments about his game, even though he’s just two shots out of the lead.
“I struggled again today,” he said. “I felt like I was hitting it all over the place. Plus I’m not putting well and that puts pressure on all parts of your game. It’s been a grind out there.”
Tied for fifth place are Branson Davis from McKinney and Nick Thornton from Boerne. Davis authored one of the best rounds of the day, a 3-under 68 that included six birdies. Thornton turned in an even-par 71. They’re both three shots behind Sewell at 3-under 210.
Four of Oak Hills members made Friday’s 36-hole cut. Nineteen-year-old Mitchell Meissner led after the first round. He signed for a 3-over 74 in the third round and is tied for 15th place at 3-over 216. Colby Harwell, who along with Atkinson and Aaron Hickman won the 2014 U.S. State Team Championships, shot even-par 71 in the third round. He’s tied for 28th place along with TGA Director Bobby Baugh at 6-over 219. Brett Nichols is tied for 47th place at 11-over 224.
Conducted by the Texas Golf Association since 1906, this is the fourth Texas Amateur held at iconic Oak Hills. The club was the site of, among other high-profile events, the inaugural PGA Tour Championship won by World Golf Hall of Famer Tom Watson in 1987. Past Texas Amateur champions at Oak Hills include another Hall of Famer, two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw. Charles Coody, winner of the 1972 Masters, also claimed a Texas Amateur at Oak Hills in 1959.
The proud club also held the 2015 Texas Senior Amateur and 2013 Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play, both won by Mike Booker of The Woodlands. Tillinghast’s par-71 golf course played to 6,621 yards in the third round. The stroke average for the 58 players who survived Friday’s 36-hole cut was 75.25. The perilous 11th, 12th and 13th holes all played well over par. The par-4 11th and 12th played to an average of 4.36 and 4.46, respectively. The par-3 13th played to 3.44.
Sunday’s final round begins at 8 a.m. By the end of the day, one player will receive the H.L. Edwards Memorial trophy and have his name engraved on it alongside the likes of Crenshaw, Coody, Scott Verplank, Mark Brooks, Bob Estes and many other greats. For more information about the 107th Texas Amateur presented by Insperity, click here.