Created on Friday, 12 July 2013 Written by RUSTY MILLER,AP Sports Writer
CANTON, Ohio (AP) — It had been a while since Corey Richmond had even played a hole of golf.
Now he, former champion Michael Bernard and a pack of others will get all they want and more.
More than two days after he put up a sterling 8-under 63, Richmond shot a 71 and finds himself in lockstep with Bernard heading into Friday's final 18 holes of the 107th Ohio Amateur at Brookside Country Club.
"It seemed like it was four days," said Richmond, who is at 8-under 134 in the tournament that was cut from 72 to 54 holes by two days of awful weather. "I was a little shaky at the start. I started bogey-bogey. But I shook the cobwebs off."
Bernard, an Ohio State sophomore who became the youngest Ohio Am winner ever at 16 in 2010, shot a 68 to put himself in position to join an elite group of luminaries to win the event more than once, including Arnold Palmer (1953-54), John Cook (1978-79) and Ben Curtis (1999-2000).
"Honestly, the first time I won this event, it wasn't the four best rounds of my life but it was probably the four most consistent rounds of my life. And it was definitely the biggest win of my life," said the Huber Heights native. "To win it again would be really cool. I've been playing really good lately. If I go out tomorrow and play the way I have been, I think I have a great shot."
Richmond, who will be a senior on the team at Northern Kentucky and is a native of West Union, feels the same way. He believes Bernard has an advantage because he's already had his name engraved on the trophy once.
"That maybe takes a little pressure off of him," he said. "But I feel like I have just as good a shot. You still have to go out there and hit the shots and make the putts. But it's an advantage being a past champion."
It's not like it's a two-horse race, either. There are eight players within five shots, a dozen within seven. Those back a ways will be firing at the pins on greens that are still wet from monsoon-like weather that swept through the area and disrupted play on Tuesday and again on Wednesday.
For the first time since Steve Anderson won at Sharon Golf Club in 1990, the Ohio Amateur champion will be decided over 54 holes instead of 72.
Andrew Dorn, a Coastal Carolina player who captured the prestigious North & South Amateur title on Saturday, is just a shot back after rounds of 66 and 69. The West Chester native will be in the same threesome with Richmond and Bernard.
"It would really mean a lot to me," he said of the possibility of winning the title. "There's so many great players who have played in Ohio as an amateur and who have won the trophy. To have my name on the trophy with them would be unbelievable."
Three shots off the lead at 137 after rounds of 67 and 70 is Chase Wilson of Zanesville, a recent graduate of High Point University who will have the advantage of playing out of sight and out of mind of those in the pressure-packed final group.
He wants to use the tournament as a springboard to his pro career.
"This could be my very last amateur event," he said. "I have a few mini-tour events I want to play before qualifying school this fall. Other than that, I've just been playing. I took just under a month off after school. I had kind of overused my wrist and injured it so I was healing up. I feel good now."
At 4-under 138 are Tyler Light, a Massillon native who plays at Malone University, and Parker Hewit, a recent Bowling Green graduate from Westfield Center.
Like the others lurking near the lead, Light intends to wait before he has to make a move.
"I'm not going to try to do anything real stupid. If I start making putts, I'll just let it happen," he said. "I'm not going to force anything."
Most of the fireworks will be lit by the lead threesome.
"I'm just going to go out there and have fun and try to win this thing," said Richmond. "Make some putts, hit some fairways, hit some greens and have some fun."
Bernard is a perennial contender at the Ohio Amateur, despite a spotty high-school career and what he called a mediocre first season at Ohio State.
Asked why he seems to be at his best in the Buckeye state's biggest amateur event, he said, "It seems like all of the courses we play at the Ohio Am fit my game. They're usually not particularly long compared to some of the stuff you play in college. They're usually not the hardest courses from tee to green but they usually have difficult greens. And I would say the best part of my game is putting and my short game. So I can definitely make up a lot of strokes on the greens on these types of courses."
Dorn is still haunted by losing an Ohio Juniors title in 2008 on the last green before a throng of family and friends. He spoke of the one-shot loss as if it were still fresh in his mind.
"When I was younger, I just missed out on the Ohio Junior, so it's always been a summer goal of mine to compete and win the Ohio Amateur championship," he said. "The way I've been playing lately, I had really high expectations coming in here. I'm just going to go play my game and see what happens."