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Bollini (65) Scrambles to Lead


Nico Bollini was born a scramblin' man.

He has proved it since his days as a junior golfer and reaffirmed it by finishing fourth in the nation among college players in sand saves last season, his freshman year at USC. Bollini, 19, from Yorba Linda, did it again Saturday in the third round of the Southern Californian Golf Assn. Amateur Championship at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana.

He hit only 11 greens in regulation yet needed only 22 putts and shot a bogey-free, six-under-par 65 for a three-round total of six-under 207 and a two-shot lead over second-round leader John Pate of Santa Barbara.

Bollini hit into six bunkers Saturday but saved par each time. He hit into five bunkers on the front nine, yet made the turn at two under thanks to birdies on Nos. 1 and 7, both par-fives.

"I feel really comfortable in the bunkers for some reason," Bollini said. "I always have since I was a kid. I enjoy being in trouble situations because I know I can get out."

Pate, 42, the older brother of PGA Tour player Steve Pate, began the day with a two-shot lead but couldn't keep pace with Bollini and shot 69.

Ron Won of Irvine also shot 69 and is at two-under 211 for the tournament, four behind Bollini. Defending champion John Merrick of Long Beach shot 68 and is at 212.

Bollini played the first four holes of the back nine in 12 shots, including a birdie-eagle-birdie stretch on Nos. 11-13.

"I knew I was putting well, so when I made the turn, I was looking forward to what would happen when I hit some greens," he said.

Pate, who came from behind to win in 1999, doesn't plan on changing his strategy in today's final round.

"If he goes out and shoots 65 and takes only 22 putts again, then there's not much I can do," Pate said.

"It's fun to watch him do that. It'll be fun to be in the last group."

For 16 holes, it appeared Won would join Bollini in the final group. The Stanford senior was five under for the day heading into No. 17, but he finished with a double-bogey and a bogey.

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