Author: Luke Hendry
INDEPENDENCE, Minn. – Derek Busby has displayed poise, confidence and self-control through 54 holes at Windsong Farm Golf Club. Those traits typically describe someone with experience, and that’s exactly what the 37-year-old mid-amateur brought to the 117th Trans-Mississippi Amateur. Following a third consecutive round in red figures, Busby leads the field by six strokes headed into the final round.
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Busby opened with rounds of 66-65. He led the championship by four shots, yet he went to the range late Wednesday afternoon to work on his swing. That range session helped manage his way to a 1-under-par round on Thursday and extend his margin against the field.
“I had a call with Butch (Harmon) last night and calmed down my right hand,” Busby said. “I thought I struck it fine today. I thought the golf course was much more difficult, so it was just about plotting you’re way along.”
Busby carded a birdie on the par-4 third and bogeyed the par-3 fourth. He turned at even par, and added another birdie on the par-5 12th. Following a clutch up and down for par on the difficult par-4 15th, Busby hit his tee shot to 20 feet past the hole on the par-3 16th. After taking a few different looks at the double-breaking putt with his caddie, Hoop, he gently struck it down the hill and it found the bottom of the cup.
“That was good for us as a team,” Busby said. “It was a crazy difficult putt, so that was a big one to make and keep the momentum going.”
Despite a three-putt bogey on the par-5 18th, the former Louisiana Tech Bulldog will begin Friday with a six-shot lead. He has a chance to become the first mid-amateur to claim the Trans-Mississippi Amateur since it welcomed collegiate players back to the event in 2010.
“It validates the things that I’ve been working on,” Busby said. “I am very demanding of myself, and I just want to be as good as I can be. That is what I’m striving for.”
Adam Brady of Perth, Australia played alongside Brady in Round 3. The 18-year-old got off to a slow start with bogeys on the par-4 fifth and par-3 seventh. He closed his nine with a birdie on the par-5 ninth, and got something going. Brady birdied the par-3 10th, par-4 11th, par-5 12th and par-4 13th for five straight.
“I was a couple over through my first eight holes, but I really didn’t hit that many bad shots,” Brady said. “I knew I was close, and that I just needed to hang in there. Those five holes gave me hoops of confidence, and I know I’ll be right there tomorrow.”
Brady kept himself in the championship with five straight birdies in the middle of his round. But, he also had the pleasure of playing alongside Busby. The Australian teenager had nothing but great things to say about the mid-am’s game.
“I don’t think he missed a shot all day,” Brady said. “The guy is just so consistent. He played really well today just a few putts didn’t go in or it would have been another low one. I know he is going to be like that tomorrow, so I am going to have to play really well if I want to catch him.”
Kaiwen Liu, a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, made the biggest move up the leaderboard on Thursday. The 21-year-old began the day nine strokes behind Busby, and he knew he had to play well to give himself a chance at winning.
“I knew I had to go low to even have a shot tomorrow,” Liu said. “I knew the leader wasn’t going to let up based on how he has played this week. Luckily, I got off to a good start.”
Liu birdied the par-4 first out of the gates. After five straight pars, he hit the shot of the day. The downhill par-3 seventh was playing 185 yards. The hole location was tucked in the back-left corner, and it called for a full 7-iron in Liu’s bag.
“I hit it really good and held my finish,” Liu said. “I actually couldn’t see it land, but someone kind of cheered for me. When we pulled out the range finder, we couldn’t see anything and that’s when we knew it was in the hole.”
Liu carded two more birdies en route to a bogey-free 4-under-par 67. He and Brady are tied second at 6-under-par 207. They will be the closest pursuers as they try to catch the man on top, Busby.
Ryan Eshleman of Birmingham, Ala. and Cal McCoy of Highlands Ranch, Colo. are tied fourth at 4-under-par 209. Derek Hitchner of Minneapolis, Minn. and Jansen Preston of Lexington, Ky. are tied sixth at 3-under-par 210. Four players are tied eighth at 2-under-par 211.
This is the first time Windsong Farm has played host to the Trans-Mississippi Amateur. Known as one of the best modern courses in the country, the championship layout was originally built in 2003 by renowned golf course architect John Fought and 5-time PGA Tour winner Tom Lehman.
Fought, a decorated golfer in his own right, claimed the 1977 Trans-Mississippi Amateur at Midland Country Club. Now hosting some of the best amateurs in the country, Windsong Farm will add to its young history. The club has played host to several elite amateur events including the University of Minnesota Gopher Invitational (2014-Present), Minnesota Amateur (2008) and Big 10 Championship (2010).
ROUND 3 STATS: The stroke average for the third round was 71.47. Seventeen players are in red figures for the championship with another 10 sitting at even-par 213. The par-4 14th hole that measures 407 yards ranked toughest again on Thursday at 4.42. It yielded three birdies and four double bogeys or worse.
The par-4 13th played only 305 yards on Thursday. With most of the field giving it a go off the tee, it played as the easiest hole and a half a stroke under par. Twenty-six birdies and an eagle were recorded.
About the Trans-Mississippi Golf Association
The Trans-Mississippi Golf Association is one of the oldest and most prestigious golf organizations in the United States. Established in 1901, the Trans-Mississippi is composed of over 200 member clubs located throughout the country. The Association is governed by a board of independent directors and is headquartered in Dallas, TX.
16837 Addison Rd., Suite 100
Addison, TX 75001