FRENCH LICK – Last year, Timothy Hildebrand, Westfield, won the 100th Indiana Open Championship at the age of 18. This year, the defending champion leads by three heading to the final round.
The rising sophomore at Purdue University carded a 3-under-par, 67 today at the Donald Ross Course at French Lick Resort to post a 54-hole total of 4-under-par, 206.
Coming into this week, Hildebrand did not expect to be in this position.
“I know I am capable, but you never really know how well you’re going to play,” Hildebrand said. “This is definitely a humbling position to be in and it feels great to have another opportunity at a win.”
Hildebrand’s round today consisted of four birdies coming on holes 5, 8, 15 and 17. He only carded one bogey.
“It was a lot of boring golf,” Hildebrand said. “I missed in the right spots and I kept the ball below the hole.”
Hildebrand has been working on his ball trajectory lately, and says learning to keep the ball low has definitely worked in his advantage this week.
“I’ve developed a lower ball flight lately and it really works well out here,” Hildebrand said. “With so much wind and shots uphill, you never know if the distance you select will be right. Playing a lower ball flight makes those decisions a little bit easier.”
After last year’s finish, Hildebrand says he feels comfortable being in the lead on the final day.
“Handling pressure is actually something I have become really good at,” Hildebrand said. “I have a lot of people here backing me up, so I feel great. I am going to try to treat tomorrow just like any other day on the course.”
Brett Melton of the CC of Old Vincennes is currently second at 1-under-par. The 2008 Indiana Open Champion also carded a 67 during today’s round and finds himself three shots back.
“It’s nice to be in this position and I feel comfortable here,” Melton said. “Timothy is obviously playing really well and I can’t control what he does tomorrow. I just plan to play my best and see what happens.”
2014 Indiana Amateur Champion, Nicholas Grubnich is third at even par. Grubnich played in the final group this morning and led at one point today. A triple bogey on the par-3, 13th cost him three strokes, but he still finds himself in contention.
Johnny Watts, Fishers, Andrew Rhodes, Indianapolis, and Anthony Bradley, French Lick are tied for fourth at 1-over-par.
Syracuse native Stephen Conrad is in the hunt as well, sitting tied for 10th at 215 after posting a 71 Wednesday. Conrad is nine shots off Hildebrand’s pace.
Kendallville’s Michael Sharp is tied for 16th after a round of 68. Michael Makris of South Bend shot a 75 and is tied for 38th, Alec Dutkowski of Wakarusa shot 72 and is tied for 43rd, Dave Pugh of Culver shot 75 and is tied for 54th, and Winona Lake’s Jon Schram turned in a 78 and sits tied for 65th.
With one round of competition left, the leaderboard remains crowded. Leaders tee off tomorrow morning at 9:48 a.m.