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One thing is certain: Benjamin Griffin won't be playing any basketball prior to today's final round.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Benjamin Griffin, of Chapel Hill, N.C., hits out of a sand trap Saturday. Griffin has a two-shot lead heading into the final round.
DON PETERSEN | Special to The Roanoke Times
Matthew Perrine, of Austin, Texas, lines up his putt during the second round. Perrine, the first-round leader, shot 76 on Saturday.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
No Saturday night hoops and a strong Sunday morning breakfast. That’s Benjamin Griffin’s game plan going into today’s final round of the 30th Scott Robertson Memorial.
One year after starting the final round in 10th place only to be forced to withdraw from a wrist injury sustained on a basketball court the previous evening, Griffin finds himself perched atop the featured boys’ 15-18 field heading into the final 18 holes of the 54-hole showdown at Roanoke Country Club.
“It’s not going to happen again this year,’’ said Griffin following a second-round 69 on Saturday that vaulted him into the 36-hole lead at 6-under 136.
“My buddy is not here, he’s in college so I don’t have to worry about the basketball,’’ said Griffin, referring to last year’s fiasco in which he hurt his right wrist playing basketball the night before the final round on a hoops court at the Residence Inn by Marriott. I’m just going to get a good night’s sleep and be ready this time.
“I’m at Hyatt Place this time where it’s nothing but nice beds where you sleep a lot.”
Starting at 11:20 this morning, the Chapel Hill, N.C., native hopes to put the rest of the field to sleep.
Will the kid be nervous starting what ranks as the biggest round of golf he has played in his life? Well, he has a settler plan for any possible nerves.
“We’ll see,’’ he said. “I just have to get a good breakfast and I won’t be shaking. Scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit, stuff like that. The bacon must be a little crispy for me … not too crispy, though.”
Certainly, the pan is hot. Earlier in the week, Griffin fried the field for his second 4A North Carolina high school state championship, firing 68-67. On Thursday before heading to Roanoke, he shot 67 at Forest Oaks in Greensboro to advance in a local qualifier for next month’s U.S. Open.
Griffin, who began the day one shot behind leader Matthew Perrine of Austin, Texas, birdied Nos. 16 and 17 on Saturday to surge to a two-shot lead on Carl Yuan (66) of Lake Mary, Fla. Zach McLain, who recorded a tournament-low 65 on Saturday, sits third at 140.
After settling for a even-par front side, Griffin birdied both of the par-5’s on the inward nine, not to mention a birdie on the difficult 228-yard par-3 16th.
“That was probably the shot of the day right there,’’ said Griffin of a rare deuce that was worth a stroke and a half on the field. “I hit a 3-iron to 2 or 3 feet, knocked in the putt, and it was pretty special. After that one, I hit a pitching wedge to 17 and made another birdie.”
Now comes the pressure cooker of the final round of a major.
“I’ve been in this position before,’’ the calm leader said. “I’m going to try to just go out there and just get off to another good start. There’s plenty of birdies to be made out here. If I can keep it in play, hitting from the fairways you can make a lot of birdies coming in with short irons.
“Pull it off and It would probably be my biggest win ever. Tournament-wise, this is probably one of the top 15-ranked tournaments in the nation, so I would probably say this would be the top one … although I do have two state championships and I also won the U.S. Kids twice when I was a little younger.
“Now I’ve just got to stay focused and play well and finish it off. I just need to play well and not worry about the other guys.”
Yuan, who was 1 over through 27 holes, bolted into contention by shooting 5-under 30 on the back nine, a serious move that was fueled by an eagle-birdie-birdie run from Nos. 11-13.
Zach McLain, who started the day nine shots back, picked a great time to post the lowest round of his life. The high school freshman from Gilbert, S.C., made eight birdies, five that stoked a back-nine 30.
“That’s my low round ever,’’ said Gilbert, 16, who is making his Robertson debut. “I’ve got third in a couple of AJGA events, but I’ve never won.
“I wasn’t really expecting it today. I’ve been struggling for the last month. My previous low round in completion was 69. I spent four hours putting after the first round and just tried to get it fixed. I made about three or four of around 20-30 feet, and a couple of 10-footers for birdie.”
Zachary Bouchou, the Forest resident who is ranked 22nd in the Golfweek/Titleist world rankings, settled for a 72 that left him tied for sixth, six shots back.
Roanoke’s Nick Brediger, playing in his final Robertson, had it 3 under through 15 holes before he bogeyed Nos. 16 and 17 for a 70 that left him tied for ninth, seven shots off the pace.
“I don’t know if it will take 65 to win it but I can do it,’’ the Radford University signee said. I’m going to play my game, roll the dice and be aggressive and try to see how low I can go.”
Salem’s Garrett Sweeney, who is headed to Lafayette this fall, started the day tied for third after a first-round 70, but a wayward driver cost him a ton of shots. He limped to the house with an 81 and failed by a shot of making the low 60 players who made the cut for the final round.
“I was so far out from where I was supposed to be that it wasn’t even funny,’’ Sweeney said. “I had a couple three-putts, a four-putt, I couldn’t hit a driver within even a 100-yard range. It was awful.”
When asked if an area player will ever win the Robertson’s premier division, Sweeney said: “It’s like seven Rolex All-Americans here. Think about how many top-100 kids there are. Nick and I haven’t even sniffed those invitational events. For a local, it’s got to be three career rounds. It’s got to be.”
Sweeney then smiled and added: “I’m not going to the Tour, I know. I’ll be raking in the big bucks. I’m going to have to support Nick on the mini-tour, he’s going to need a sponsor.”
In the boys’ 14-and-under division, Parker Gillam of Cary, N.C., shot a 70 for a 36-hole total 1-under 141. John Pak, of Scotch Plains, N.J., had a 72 and is one shot back.
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