Oklahoma City Holds Eight-Shot Edge after Day 3 at National Championships
Story by Brian Thiessen, NAIA Media Coordinator
SILVIS, Ill. -- (Team Results) (Individual Results) (Final Round Pairings) (Watch Day 3 Video Recap) S.M. Lee of Dalton State (Ga.) continued his strong play, posting a third-round 5-under 66 to extend his individual lead at the 2018 NAIA Men's Golf National Championships. His three-day total of 203 is 10-under par, giving him a five-shot lead entering Friday's final round at TPC Deere Run.
On the team side, Oklahoma City climbed to the top of the leaderboard, putting together an 8-under 276 to move to a 4-under 848 for the tournament, eight shots better than both Dalton State and Coastal Georgia.
On another beautiful day, the story of the tournament remained Lee. He posted his third sub-par round as his 66 followed rounds of 69 and 68. And what was a two-shot lead entering play Thursday, ballooned to five shots at the end of the day.
"Today's pins were a little easier even though the wind picked up on the back," Lee said. "I had a good stretch early on the back (birdies on No. 10, 11 and 12) that gave me a boost in confidence, and everything really went well.
"The goal is to play the best I can," Lee continued, looking ahead to tomorrow. "A five-shot lead doesn't mean I'm going to slow down. I'm going to go as hard as I can and try to win by a big margin."
Oklahoma City's Rupert Kaminski matched Lee with a third-round 66 to move into a second-place tie with Ben Kendrick of Cumberlands (Ky.). Both players are at 208. Andrew Williamson of Wayland Baptist (Texas) and Liam Gransden of Keiser (Fla.) are tied for fourth, seven shots behind Lee.
Jake Bauer of Johnson & Wales (Fla.) was one of two players teeing off in the morning to come in with a 2-under 211. He fired a 3-under 68 Thursday.
"That came with three 3-putts today. They were tough putts, but they got away from me. Otherwise my round could have been really low but I had a good finish."
That finish came with a birdie on No. 18, when Bauer pitched in with a 9-iron that bumped off a hill, picked up speed on the green and hit the center of the stick.
"I'll take that and run away," Bauer said.
Carlos Ardila of Southeastern (Fla.) was the other player from the morning wave finishing with a 211, one of four players eight shots off the pace.
Oklahoma City has recovered from an opening-day 6-over 290, which had left them in ninth place, to post rounds of 282 and 276 to take the team lead.
"I think it was just a matter of getting our confidence," Oklahoma City coach Kyle Blaser said. "There are going to be nerves at the beginning of a big tournament. Now we just need to continue to stick to the game plan and hopefully stay on top."
The Stars will take an eight shot lead over both Dalton State and Coastal Georgia, which held a one-shot lead entering the third round. Keiser is fourth with an 859 and Texas Wesleyan sits in fifth with an 860.
The field was cut to the top 17 teams and top 40 individuals plus ties following Thursday's round.
St. Ambrose University and the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau are serving as hosts of the National Championship, which are being competed at TPC Deere Run, the host course for the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, for the third straight year and the sixth time in the last 10 years.
A national champion will be crowned Friday as the final round of the tournament tees off at 7:30 a.m. CT.