Titleholder Luca Cianchetti heads into the final round of the European Amateur Championship at Walton Heath in a three-way tie for the lead.
He shot 67 in today’s tricky breeze for a 54-hole total of 12-under par, which was matched by fellow Italian Lorenzo Scalise and Jeremy Gandon of France.
Alfie Plant (Sundridge Park, Kent) leads the English challenge and is just one shot off the pace. He shot five-under 67 today and remarked: “It’s moving day and the last thing you want tomorrow is to be too far behind the lead. You have to put yourself in the mix and I did that.”
Plant, 24, is a past winner of the Lytham Trophy and secured England’s silver medal at last year’s world championship. “I have performed on a few big stages now and it makes you a little bit more relaxed going into the final round,” he said.
“I’m sure there will be a few little nerves, but it’s exciting, you practice all year for this situation.”
Excitement is guaranteed with everything pointing to yet another intensely close round, reflecting the quality of the field and the play so far. There’s a dozen players within three shots of the lead and the cut fell on two-under, with 64 players qualifying.
England’s Dan Brown (Masham, Yorkshire) commented: “This is such a strong field, it’s pretty much Challenge Tour standard.” He’s also in the thick of the action, in a four-strong group on nine-under par, which also includes Josh McMahon (Wallasey, Cheshire), who shared the lead for a time today.
Brown’s aim today was to close the gap on the leaders and he was satisfied. “I’m within touching distance and it’s always nice to be in contention,” he said. “I feel I’ve gained a lot of experience over the last four or five years of playing men’s golf and hopefully I will handle everything well and play like I did today.”
The recent Italian influence on this championship is strong. Their players have won it for the past two years and defending champion Cianchetti makes no bones about their ambitions: “We will try to keep the title at home!”
He has worked his way steadily to the top of the leaderboard on a course which holds happy memories as the setting for his first big win in the South of England open amateur. “I will try to improve my score tomorrow and see what happens,” he said.
Scalise was the first round leader but at the halfway stage was four shots off the pace. He came out today determined to make moving day live up to its name – and achieved it with a bogey-free round of seven-under 65. “I just wanted to get a little closer to the lead and I’m in a better position than I was this morning!”
His round featured five birdies and an eagle three on the 14th, but, despite the score, he went straight off to the putting green for some fine tuning.
Gandon was also on flawless form as he joined the lead with his bogey-free 67. He got straight down to business, playing the difficult opening six holes in two-under and adding three more birdies on the way in.
“I need to do the same tomorrow,” he said. “There are some great scores and I’m surprised the cut is two-under, but I guess these are the best players from Europe.”
It’s definitely an international field with 20 countries represented by the players who made the cut.
A low cut was predicted after yesterday’s second round and a number of players in the danger zone responded with great rounds today. They included 2016 Amateur Champion Scott Gregory (Corhampton, Hampshire) and Lytham Trophy winner Jack Singh Brar (Remedy Oak, Dorset) who both shot six-under 66 to qualify comfortably.
Walton Heath’s David Boote also qualified on four-under, while new Amateur Champion Harry Ellis (Meon Valley, Hampshire) went through on three-under.