Rickie Fowler continues to lead 105th Western Amateur

Published 6:51 pm Friday, August 3, 2007

By Staff
BENTON HARBOR – Rickie Fowler maintained his mastery of Point O'Woods Golf &Country Club on Thursday, turning in a 2-under-par 68 after an opening round 65 to build a two- stroke lead at 7-under-par 133 through 36 holes in the 105th Western Amateur Championship.
Fowler, the 2005 Western Junior champion, is playing in his first Western Amateur but is scoring like a veteran at the nation's second-oldest amateur golf tournament. He hit 17 greens in regulation in his second competitive round at the Point.
"I'm hitting the ball well and keeping it in play. I just didn't make any putts," said Fowler, who won the Sunnehanna Amateur in June and the Players Amateur in July. "I need to go out and keep hitting the ball well and give myself opportunities for birdie. If I can make a few more putts, I should be pretty good."
Making the Sweet 16 in his first Western Amateur "would be awesome," said Fowler, who is joining the Oklahoma State University golf squad as a freshman this fall. "There are some great players here."
Fowler, 18, Murrieta, Calif., credited his caddie-former Murrieta Valley High School teammate Andrew Cortez – with assisting him in navigating the Point the past two days.
"He's helping me. He knows my game," said Fowler. "He caddied for me last year when I made the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur, and he wanted to come here to caddie for me."
Fowler led a field of 58 players who made the 36-hole cut at 144 or better. Two shots back of Fowler at 5-under-par 135 were Lucas Lee, a junior at UCLA; Jhonattan Vegas, a 2007 University of Texas graduate; and first-round co-leader Alex Prugh, a 2007 University of Washington graduate.
Lee fired a 5-under-par 65 Thursday following an even par 70 on Wednesday; Vegas shot rounds of 68-67 to keep pace, while Prugh shot even par 70 Thursday after turning in a 5-under-par 65 Wednesday. Staying out of the Point O'Woods' thick rough remained the theme for players at or near the top of the leaderboard.
"I just hit the fairways a lot," said Lee, 20, a third team All-American and second team All-PAC 10 selection this year. "I really don't want to be in the rough. It's pretty nasty."
Lee, of Torrance, Calif., has played well this year, reaching the quarterfinals in the U.S. Public Links and winning two collegiate events, the Southern Highlands Invitational and the CSU-Bakersfield Invitational. Heading into Friday's 36-hole marathon to determine the 16 qualifiers for match play on the weekend.
Lee is hoping to improve on his 2006 finish, when he missed the final cut by two strokes.
"Tomorrow, I'm just going to be trying to make birdies, but I have to be patient because we're playing two rounds," he said.
Vegas, 22, a native of Madulin, Venezuela, agreed that staying out of the rough is priority No. 1.
"The rough is really, really high, and driving the ball is really important," he said. "I've been driving the ball really well, and once you hit the fairways, you give yourself a chance to get it close to the hole."
Vegas also narrowly missed the 2006 Sweet 16 and is looking forward to entering Friday's rounds at 5 under par.
"I'll stick with my routine and just try to do my best," he said. "That's what I did the last two days." Vegas – who learned to play golf on a course at a Venezuelan oil camp where his father was employed – won the 2006 Venezuelan Amateur and tied for sixth in the 2007 Texas State Amateur.
Prugh, 22, Spokane, Wash., struggled off the tee on Thursday, hitting just 11 fairways, but scrambled his way to even par. Heading into Friday's final 36 holes of stroke play, Prugh noted "there's still a lot to do. I'm going to hit the range. I need to find a few more fairways. You have to find fairways out here."
Prugh won the 2007 Oregon Duck Invitational, the 2005 Pacific Coast Amateur and the 2005 Washington State Amateur. At Washington, he earned first team All-PAC 10 honors in 2006 and second team in 2005 and 2007.
Sitting just one stroke back of Lee, Vegas and Prugh at 136 were: Rob Grube, 22, Hinsdale, Ill.; Matthew Savage, 20, Louisville, Ky.; and Bronson Burgoon, 20, Montgomery, Texas. Grube, a senior at Stanford, helped lead the Cardinal to victory in the 2007 NCAA Championship, placing third individually.
He was a 2007 second team All-American and first team All-PAC 10 selection. Grube won the 2006 Illinois State Amateur and the 2006 Corde Valle Classic. Savage, a junior at Florida State University, was a 2007 NCAA honorable mention All-American, finishing ninth in the NCAA Championship. He won the 2006 Kentucky State Open.
Burgoon, a Texas A&M University sophomore, earned third team All-American honors in 2007 and won the 2003 and 2005 Texas State High School championships.
Jamie Lovemark, 2005 Western Amateur champion and a 2006 Sweet 16 qualifier, withdrew after the first round due to an injury.