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Tough track: Locals agree state amateur course doesn't play nice

ROSWELL - "I'm glad it's over," Dacula grad Nathan Rau sang as he walked to the scorers tent to sign his score card.

Raymond Perez of Norcross wouldn't even talk about his round.

And this was just after the second day of the Georgia State Amateur at Ansley Golf Club-Settingdown Creek.

Even those players who finished the day with low scores wouldn't label the course as easy.

"I made a lot of pars which really isn't too bad," said Duluth's Greg Kennedy, the only Gwinnett golfer to earn an exemption into the Amateur, of his even-par 72 in the second round. "To score you really need to drive it well. There is plenty of room in the fairways, but visually it is an intimidating golf course. Second is putting."

Sounds easy enough, but all that is relative to the course. In last year's Amateur at Coosa Country Club in Rome, 22 players finished the weekend at or above 13 over. This year, the cut is at 13 over.

It's awesome.

These guys earned their right to play here and they earned the right to be tested. Would it really be fun if every golfer skipped around the course under par and they all finished with big smiles and hearty handshakes?

Maybe for them. I say rough them up a bit. Make them think, battle and work. This is the State Amateur, not a lazy Sunday round with their buddies. For the most part the players agree.

"I would rather it be here than somewhere you can shoot 10 under and win," said Loganville's Mike Sweeney, who is playing in his first Amateur after moving to Georgia from Virginia three years ago. "It makes it a little more interesting."

It's interesting for everyone. Entering today's final round Jeff Belk leads at 3 under, and is one of only two players under par for the tournament. Billy Shida, a Peachtree Ridge grad, is the top Gwinnett player at 7 over. These are the guys winning the battle. Finding ways to make birdies and, more importantly, stay out of trouble and away from big numbers.

"There are not a lot of birdies out there," said Duluth's Seth Reeves. "You got to play fairways to greens to get pairs or else you will bogey or double-bogey. You just have to try to shoot somewhere around par."

Norcross' Cho

aces Srixon Qualifier

It was a good day for Norcross' Justin Cho at Stonebridge Country Club.

Not only did Cho win the Burgett H. Mooney Jr. Rome Classic Srixon Qualifier with a 5-under 67, he also celebrated a personal golfing first.

As part of Cho's low round the 14-year-old collected his first-ever hole-in-one using a 7-irion on the eighth hole.

Also competing on the boys side of the even were Duluth's Jordan Janico (70), Dacula's Kevin Lee (71), Hoschton's Thomas Nieporte (74) and Duluth's Drew McGuire (77).

On the girls side, Braselton's Abby Johnson and Duluth's Nina Yoo were the two low Gwinnett finishers with 80s, followed by Suwanee's Alicia Poole (84).

Parkview grad low amateur

Playing for Smoke Rise, Parkview grad John Saari shot back-to-back 70s to finish 4 under and tied with Greg Garde of Ansley Golf Club-Settingdown Creek as the low amateur at the Griffin Classic.

Saari's 4-under 140 was also good enough to a top-9 finish in the Georgia PGA event.

Local finishers behind Saari included his brother, Michael (E), David Potts from Peachtree Family Golf Center (3 over), Parker Beck from the Atlanta Athletic Club (3 over), Hamilton Mill's Paul Chung (7 over), Berkeley Hill's Shawn McKinnon (12 over) and Hamilton Mill's Faiyaz Amlani (19 over).

Estep 8th

In a field that included golfers from across the country, Lawrenceville's Zach Estep shot a three-day total 210 to finish eighth in the 13-14 division of the Future Masters at Dothan (Ala.) Country Club.

In the 11-12 division Duluth's Preston Heyward finished in the top 21 with a three-day total of 224 and Hoschton's Kameron Williams shot 79-85, but missed the cut by two strokes. There were a pair of local finishers in the top 26 in the 10-and-under division. Lawrenceville's Austin Mancilla and Duluth's Walker Oskin each shot 86.

Auburn's Drew Czuchry shot a four-day 227 to finish in the top 87 in the 15-18 division.

Golfing Gwinnett is a weekly column that highlights golf in the area and welcomes contributions from courses and individuals. To be included in the column, fax information to (770) 339-8081 or e-mail to ben.beitzel@gwinnettdailypost.com.