Wheeler, Royak Maintain Leads Entering Final Round of Lupton Memorial

  • Sunday, May 28, 2023
  • Paul Payne
Chris Wheeler exits the 18th hole with his caddie during Saturday's play at the John T. Lupton Memorial Tournament at The Honors Course.
Chris Wheeler exits the 18th hole with his caddie during Saturday's play at the John T. Lupton Memorial Tournament at The Honors Course.
photo by Contributed

The friendly rivalry between Chris Wheeler and Joe Deraney goes back more than two decades, but it resurfaced again Saturday at The Honors Course during the John T. Lupton Memorial Tournament.

They often found themselves going head-to-head for medalist honors during their college careers, something that has continued years later as amateurs.

When the Lupton Memorial was last held two years ago, Deraney outdueled Wheeler to win the mid-amateur division by four shots after leading by a single stroke entering the final hole. The Tupelo, Mississippi resident will need to make up some ground on Sunday to earn his third trophy in the prestigious event having also won in 2016.

Deraney bogeyed his first hole after starting on No. 10 before shooting 6-under over his next ten holes. But bogeys on four of his final seven holes resulted in a round of 71, his total of 2-under putting him four shots off the lead held by Wheeler at 6-under par.

“We’ve been doing this for over 22 years since he was at Tulane and I was playing at Mississippi State,” Deraney said. “He and I dueled two years ago and I expect it might happen again tomorrow. He’s such a great competitor.”

Wheeler birdied his final hole on the round – the ninth hole having started on No. 10 – to maintain the lead after two days, closing with an even par round of 72. The breezy afternoon conditions resulted in four birdies being neutralized by four bogeys for the resident of Carrollton, Texas.

“The course played completely different today as I was first off the tee yesterday morning when the dew was still on the greens,” Wheeler said. “The wind picked up and I didn’t make as many putts. My mindset going into the final round is to keep controlling the golf ball and stay patient on the greens. This is my favorite golf course on earth so I’m looking forward to having a different result than I had two years ago.”

Sam Jackson posted the day’s best round with a 69 to finish at 5-under, one shot off the lead. The Columbia, South Carolina resident had a lone bogey to go with four birdies to make a push in his initial appearance in the event.

“I played consistently all day,” Jackson said. “I’ve been ahead lately in some tournaments I’ve played, so tomorrow will be a bit different playing from behind. This is my first time at this event, and it’s a special place. I’ve been fortunate enough to play some great golf courses but The Honors Course ranks near the top.”

Lookout Mountain Golf Club’s Mark Harrell sits in third place at 3-under after backing up his opening round 70 with a 71 on Saturday, one shot ahead of Deraney.

First-round leader Bob Royak shot even par to close at 4-under, maintaining a two-stroke advantage in the Senior Division. Doug Hanzel and Jack Larkin posted the only below-par rounds on the day in the senior bracket with a scores of 71, leaving Hanzel at 2-under and Larkin 1-under entering the final day.

“I hit the ball pretty good. I had a miscue on 12 that cost me double-bogey, but I was pleased overall,” said Royak, who lives in Alpharetta, Georgia and won the 2019 U.S. Senior Amateur title. “I shot 72 and there were only two scores one stroke better, so I’ll take that.

“It’s my third time playing this event so I’m getting a feel for the course. The Honors Course is a special place, and with the U.S. Senior Amateur being held here next year, I know I’m going to be back here then.”

Players shake hands in mid-amateur division play at the conclusion of their round on the ninth hole at The Honors Course.
Players shake hands in mid-amateur division play at the conclusion of their round on the ninth hole at The Honors Course.
photo by Contributed
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