Things got just a little too eventful for Corey Conners on the back nine Wednesday at Elmhurst, but the 22-year-old golfer from Listowel, Ont., is right there again with a chance to win the Canadian Men's Amateur Championship.
He's had three close calls in the previous three years and this time around, he's the third-round leader after a round of 2-under 68 on Wednesday put him one ahead of Albuquerque, N.M.'s Sam Saunders heading for today's final 18 holes.
Conners was tied for third in 2011 at Niakwa, fourth in 2012 near Ottawa and tied for second last year in Victoria, when his final round was just a little too up and down.
It was getting that way on Wednesday at Elmhurst. He had made just one bogey over the first two days of the national championship and had a three-shot lead at one point midway through Round 3. Then came four bogeys and two birdies over the final six holes of his day.
"I'm happy with my score," he said. "I am disappointed with all the bogeys but I'll try to smooth things out a little bit. I just got out of my rhythm a little bit near the end.
"Maybe I was little antsy, or excited, but I'll try to keep it calm and keep it in the fairway and get on the green."
Conners hit the first 14 greens in regulation on Wednesday before becoming a little unsettled, though one of his bogeys he called "sweet," a 10-foot save after making a hash of the most difficult hole on the course all week, the par-4 16th.
"I tried to play a little too aggressive on 16 and it led to a bogey so I'll put that in my memory bank for tomorrow," he said. "It's a really tough tee shot. You've kind of got to lay it back because it's tough to get in the fairway.
"I tried to hit a driver over the trees today and just caught it a little bit low. It just clipped the very top and it dropped straight down and I was kind of screwed. I made a sweet bogey there."
No. 16 isn't the nail-biter at Elmhurst this week, where they've stretched out the yardage, reduced par from 71 to 70, presented an inordinate number of tough hole locations and baked the course to firm and fast.
"You've got to be really thinking out there, making smart decisions," Conners said. "I'm usually pretty good at that so I don't really mind how they have it set up. But some of the pins are right on the edges and if you miss it on the wrong side, you have very little chance of hitting it close."
Without too much fanfare, the member of Canada's national men's team said he believes he's ready to win this event.
"I came here with the mindset it's my time to win," he said. "I'm just trying to do my thing out here and we'll see what happens. But there's still another round to be played. I'll give it my best."
Saunders, who shared the second-round lead, shot one-over 71 on Wednesday. He birdied the 18th -- against Conners' bogey -- to pull just one back.
In third place is first-day co-leader Brian Bullington of Frankfort, Ill, who shot 69 and stands at 6-under, just two back.
In a share of fourth at 5-under are New Zealand's James Beale (68) and national team member Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C. (70).
Californian Rico Hoey, with Wednesday's best score of 65, moved up to a tie for sixth. That group includes national-teamers Garret Rank and Chris Hemmerich, Garrick and Winnipeg's Bret Thompson of Southwood, who shot 72 to stand at 4-under through three days.
Saunders, heading for his senior year at the University of New Mexico, was thrilled to make a birdie at the 512-yard, par-4 18th on Wednesday.
"That was really big," he said with a smile. "On the tee, I knew I needed to play this hole well and not make a bogey. I had just bogeyed the previous two.
"I think I got lucky. I hit it in there about as close as you can and made a great putt."
The putt, from about 18 feet, will help him start today in a better frame of mind.
"It's probably more mental," he said. "Just to start the day, it'll be nice to feel like I'm not in the hole already and have to make something happen."
Saunders, who shot matching 67s the first two days, was a very good sport when asked how many times he gets asked about "his grandfather."
Golf legend Arnold Palmer has a grandson named Sam Saunders.
"A lot," he laughed. "And I have to tell them he's not my grandfather. I might want to try to get into the Arnold Palmer Invitational, write him, 'Hey, it's me.' "
NOTES: A member of the University of New Mexico Lobos has won this title before in Winnipeg. You may remember Winnipegger's Rob McMillan's triumph at Glendale in 1996... Today's final group, Conners, Saunders and Bullington, is off the first tee at 9:20 a.m.