Front 9 lifts Brown at State Am

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

WEST POINT – Nicholas Brown wished he could play all of today’s 18-hole final round of the MGA State Amateur Championship on Old Waverly Golf Club’s front nine.
“There something about the front side that suits me,” he said. “I’m 11-under on the front and 4-over on the back in three days here.
“I don’t know why.”
However, the Southern Miss senior and 2011 All-Conference USA academic team member knows that’s not possible.
Meridian’s Brown, a left-hander who recorded a 4-under-par 68 Saturday to take a three-stroke lead (69-72-68 – 209) into today’s final round, will have to play the entire course to beat his competitors – Mississippi State golf coach Clay Homan (69-72-71 – 212) and MSU senior golfer Alex Rowland (70-71-71 – 212), who are tied for second, and Ryan Ratcliff, a Mississippi College golfer, is alone in fourth place (72-71-70 – 213).
The three leaders will tee off at 10:50 a.m. today in the final round. Last year’s winner, Fletcher Johnson of Tupelo, is tied for 14th with a 9-over 225 score.
Brown, Houston’s Rowland, Fulton’s Homan and Meadville’s Ratcliff are the only players to record under-par scores through three rounds. Ole Miss golfer Billy Brozovich of Greenville, a co-leader through two rounds, posted a 5-over 77 Saturday to fall to fifth (68-73-77 – 218).
Brown recorded four birdies to take a 7-under score to the back nine Saturday. He now has 13 birdies on the front side through 54 holes.
His back nine wasn’t as solid, but it included back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15 after bogeys on 10 and 13. “Those two birdies got me back to where I wanted to be,” he said.
Brown’s biggest putt came on the par 3 17th where he rolled in an 8-footer for par. “I had hit to the left of the green,” he said. “I really needed to make that. That was big for me.”
Rowland, who has putted well this week, finished his front nine with a birdie. He kicked off his back nine with back-to-back birds.
“I didn’t have anything good going until that birdie on nine,” he said. “Then I birdied 10 and 11. That putt in the middle of the round was important for me.”
Homan admitted that he was “all over the place” during his third round. Still, he managed five birdies.
“It was birdie or bogey,” he said. “There was no consistency out there. I missed some par putts I should have made. I was just up and down.”
Brown’s strategy for today’s final round is simple. “I just want to come out here and play my game,” he said. “You’ve got to come out here and beat the course. You can’t worry about other guys playing.”
Rowland would like to remain in contention and have an opportunity “coming down the stretch.”
“I’m going to come out and do what I’ve been doing all week – plodding along and trying to make pars … and birdies when I can.”
Homan, a two-time State Am champion (1994, 2005), likes his position.
“I’ll see what these guys do,” he said. “I think I’m within reach. We’ll have to see.”
• Scores and pairings, Page 2B

Click video to hear audio