DALLAS - Chris Ward just finished his senior season with the Texas Tech golf team and is getting ready to turn pro. There might be no better confidence booster than winning his last amateur event, and a biggie at that.
Ward leads the 101st Texas Amateur Championship by two strokes after he carded a 1-under-par 70 Saturday at Royal Oaks to get to 11 under for the tournament. He's been in the lead after each of the first three rounds.
"I'm playing OK,'' he said. "There's a few putts I missed that I shouldn't have, but other than that, it was a pretty good round.''
The pretty good rounds have been piling up for Ward, especially in marquee events the last two months. He won Big 12 Conference individual medalist in late April at Whispering Pines, and tied for fifth in the NCAA South Central Regional at College Station, helping the Red Raiders capture the team title.
At the NCAA championships in Chattanooga, Tenn., Ward tied a Tiger Woods course record with a round of 67 at The Honors Course and helped Tech rally to be one of the eight teams to make bracket play.
"Definitely I've been playing some of the best golf of my life lately,'' said Ward, who was named a PING second-team all-American. "It's a lot of fun. I've been playing pretty consistent here the last month or two.''
Texas A&M golfer Bryant Lach is in second place at 9-under 204, followed by Sam Houston State's Garrett Driver at 7-under 206. Those two were in the same threesome with Ward on Saturday, with Lach shooting 70 and Driver 69. They'll also have the last tee time again today at 9:20 a.m.
Will Griffin, a senior on the Tech team this season, shot 71 Saturday. He's in a three-way tie for ninth, eight shots out of the lead. The tournament started with 144 players.
On Saturday, Ward offset two bogeys by making birdie on three par-5s. On No. 5, his drive landed in a fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up to 150 yards. Ward's 8-iron into the green stopped 25 feet away, and he made the left-to-right breaker.
On No. 18, he found trouble off the tee again, and had to punch out of trees to 150 yards. This time he stopped his approach about 15 feet away and made the putt.
His driver is about the only thing that's been up and down lately.
"Compared to the post-season (college) tournaments, not as good,'' he said. "But still relatively good. Except after the first four or five holes, I drove the ball pretty well. I didn't hit it good right at the beginning and tried to figure out what I was doing wrong.''
Ward is trying to become the first Lubbock- or Tech-connected golfer to win the Texas Amateur since Robert McKinney, a Monterey and Tech alumnus, won the 1999 event at Deerwood in Houston.
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