If Dawson Jones is to win the 118th NJSGA Amateur Championship presented by Provident Bank, he’ll have to wait until Friday. The wait may be well worth it; he leads the field by  five strokes on the fifteenth green, where he was when play was suspended for the day due to lightning at 4:02 p.m. Play will resume at 7:00 Friday morning, when Jones will look to claim the Edwin M. Wild Championship in potential record fashion.

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At two under par through 14 holes of his final round, Jones stands at 14-under-par with Jack Wall (who is in the same group) of Manasquan River at nine-under. Chris Gotterup of Rumson, a rising junior on the Rutgers golf team, shot 68 and finished at eight-under-par 280. Vince Kwon of NJSGA E-Club is also at eight-under par through 16 holes.

Brandon Dalinka of Ridge at Back Brook, 2019 NJSGA Mid-Amateur champion, is six under-par through 16 holes and Troy Vannucci of Little Mill is at five under through 17 holes.

Eleven players will return to Neshanic Valley to complete their rounds at 7 a.m. and will have a tall task trying to catch the red-hot Jones.

For Jones, 14 under par is the magic number. It was his record score when he won the 2017 NJSGA Amateur Championship at Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield. That 214 score included a seven-under-par 65 in the final round as he made up seven strokes in the final round to win by a shot. His eight-under-par 64 in the first round of the Amateur this past Tuesday set the course record by two shots at Neshanic Valley.

 “My mindset for tomorrow will be to pretend like it’s my first three holes of the round. I’ll look at it as if I’m starting on No. 1 again,” said Jones, 21, a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island who on Monday qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship and two weeks ago won the MGA’s Ike Stroke-Play Championship.

Jones took a four-shot lead into the final round after firing a one-under-par 71 in Thursday morning’s third round. His closest pursuer was Gregor Tait, a Seton Hall University junior from England who shot 70. Wall and 35-year-old Thomas Collins of Essex County (68 third round) were five shots back.

Wall came within one shot of the lead early in the fourth and final round, but his double bogey on the seventh hole gave Jones plenty of cushion. Wall birdied the par-4, No. 2 hole and the par-3, No. 3 hole and when Jones bogeyed there, the lead was reduced to two strokes. Wall added another birdie on the par-5, No. 5 when his chip from the front of the green resulted in a kick-in birdie that brought him to 10-under par for the tournament, one shot behind Jones who stood at 11-under par.

After both players parred the par-4, No. 6, things changed dramatically on the par-4, 382-yard No. 7. Wall, standing 116 yards from the pin, hit a gap wedge that overshot the green and found the water behind it. He had to settle for a double bogey which opened Jones’ lead to three shots. Wall’s bogey on No. 8 and a birdie by Jones on No. 9 made it a five-shot advantage for Jones. 

 “I didn’t play any differently than I did on the first two days,” said Jones following the third round. “I’m taking it one shot at a time. I’m not getting ahead of myself. I’ll just grind it out and see what the scores look like at the end.”

In the third round, Jones recorded birdies on the par-5, No. 9 and the par-5, No. 13, while his only bogey came on the par-4 No. 14.

 “I only had three bogeys so far in this tournament so it says a lot about my short game. I didn’t hit every green, but was successful in making a lot of ups and downs, and making those putts within the six-foot circle,” Jones noted.

Hole-by-hole scoring at NJSGA.org will continue Friday morning; updates via the NJSGA’s social media stream will also be available throughout the morning from Neshanic Valley.

Click here for coverage from The Bergen Record

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