Lyerly leading NC Amateur in Chapel Hill

Published 9:31 pm Saturday, June 18, 2016

Staff report

CHAPEL HILL — Nick Lyerly of Salisbury shot a blistering 4-under par 68 here Saturday at the Governors Club to take the third round lead in the 56th North Carolina Amateur.

Lyerly, 17, who just finished his junior year at East Rowan High School, has a three-day total of 7-under par 209, following his first-round 70 and Friday’s 71.

Even Lyerly admits that he’s a surprise leader in this top-notch field of 145, which includes seasoned amateur golfers, college players and high schoolers.

“I guess I’m kind of an underdog … not too many people expected me to be in this position,” said Lyerly. “I just need to go out there (today) and play and have fun. If I get beat, I get beat.

“But I’m super excited,” continued Lyerly, who is playing in this event for the first time. “At the beginning, I just wanted four solid rounds of golf. Now, I’d like to add one more and maybe get a win. I’ve just got to play one shot at a time.”

Lyerly tees off at 9:40 this morning at the 7,005-yard, par-72 course, one he had not seen before Wednesday’s practice round. He will play today’s rounds with his nearest competitors — Thomas Eldridge of Raleigh and Caleb Keck of Reidsville, both who are two strokes back at 211.

On Saturday, Lyerly played with Victor Wiggins of Gastonia, a collegiate golfer at UNC Charlotte, and phenom Akshay Bhatia, of Wake Forest, a rising high school freshman. Bhatia is 2-under for the tournament and tied for seventh place.

But yesterday was all about Lyerly, who posted the only score in the 60s among the 60 players who survived Friday’s cut.

“Everything kind of fell into place for me,” said Lyerly. “I hit my driver really well, the irons were a little better today than in the first two rounds and the putts were falling. I was consistently putting between 10 and 15 footers.”

Two putts were considerably shorter for the modest Lyerly. He had tap-in birdies on consecutive holes, making up for two straight bogeys prior to that.

On the par-5 13th hole, Lyerly was just off the green in two shots and chipped his third shot “very close.” On the next hole, the par-3 14th, Lyerly used his 8-iron for the 165-yard downhill shot, getting to within four feet of the hole.

Salisbury’s Eric Edwards, a junior at George Mason University, is  tied for 31st. He stands at 223 with a 75-74-74 scorecard.

Jake Kennedy of Mount Ulla, a West Rowan graduate who plays at Gardner-Webb, is tied for 48th with a 229. Kennedy has a strong 72 on Friday, but shot 81 yesterday.

Davis Richards of China Grove (South Rowan), an N.C. State player, is in 56th place at 234 (74-77-83).

East Rowan’s Logan Shuping and Andrew Morgan of China Grove failed to make the cut. Shuping had a 78 on Thursday and a 77 on Friday.

Morgan had a 78 and 84, but came home and won medalist honors on Saturday in the Rowan Masters qualifying at Warrior Golf Club.

Win or lose today, Lyerly, the 2015 3A high school state champion, will play in the N.C. Junior Open later this week at Wilson Country Club. He is looking for his first win in that tournament, falling last year in the quarterfinals at the Country Club of Salisbury. He lost in the semifinals in 2014.

Lyerly and Shuping were just recently honored as the Salisbury Post’s Rowan County high school golf players of the year.