Poor weather conditions separated the field today at the 89th Dixie Amateur, hosted at Eagle Trace Golf Club. Only two under-par scores were posted (both 2-under 70s), one by 18-year-old Bennett Ruby of Waterloo, Canada, who is now the third round leader.
For the third day in a row, the weather played a major factor. Round one saw a warm and blustery day, round two added rain, and round three doubled down on both, including gusts over 25 miles per hour. One official was overheard saying “the sky is the perfect color of I don’t know, because I can’t follow the ball into the sky.”
Ruby, who is playing in his first tournament since August, is a member of the Canadian Junior Team and a Southern Mississippi commit. Today he played a steady round, making three birdies on the front nine, including on the par-3 7th where he made a triple bogey the day before. It was doubly sweet because he “dropped a bomb” of a forty-foot putt.
On the back nine, Ruby made eight pars and a bogey. “I rolled in two eight footers for par. They kept my round going.”
Despite the conditions, with only two rounds under par and two at even par, Ruby was not deterred in the way he approached the course.
“Driver is my favorite club to hit. I like to take aggressive lines and get a short iron in my handon approach shots.”
In fact the conditions may have actually aided his approach. “If the fairways were firm androlling out, then my ball may have found some trouble [rolling through the fairway],” Ruby noted.
Starting the day, Ruby was two groups ahead of the lead group of Zack Mason, Brett Schell, and Tyler Stachkunas. Each of the three was responsible for at least one of the ten rounds under par throughout the tournament, with Schell carding the only sub-70 round on day two with a 69.
Mason is a third year at Eastern Michigan, Schell is a true Freshman at Ole Miss, and Stachkunas is a 16-year-old high school student. The age disparity did not discriminate against their play however, with each taking mighty lashes off the tee and playing strategically around the course. Yet, the grind wore on each as Mason, Schell, and Stachkunas carded their worst rounds of the tournament with 75, 76, and 79 respectively.
Eagle Trace is not an easy track even in the best conditions, and the difficulty is probably why players come to compete from 12 countries and numerous universities, like Washington State,Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Eastern Michigan, Chattanooga, Mississippi State, and MTSU.
Friday will determine if Ruby can keep it going, but he isn’t lacking for confidence. “I want to go out there and keep hitting it good, hit greens, and have some putts drop.” He will continue his aggressive approach and won’t go out just trying to protect his lead. “I like to keep it aggressive — try to take it deeper, make more birdies.”
This weather has only served to bring the best out of this elite field. Today BennettRuby is at the top. Tomorrow will determine if he stays there.