Hannes Ronneblad had two choices.
The first choice was to stay in Sweden, shovel snow and look at the golf courses turn brown and then close down under layers of ice and snow. The second choice was to pack his bags, fly to Miami, enjoy the comfortably warm weather and play golf under the sun.
Ronneblad, naturally, took the second choice and is making it pay off quite nicely. He shot a 2-under-par 69 Thursday at the Miami Beach Golf Club for a three-day total of 8-under 204 to take the lead in the South Beach International Amateur by one shot over Ryan Burgess of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., who shot a 73, and Juan Pablo Hernandez of Mexico City, who shot a 69.
Making Ronneblad’s performance even more impressive is the fact this is his first international tournament. Some 15 minutes after finishing his round Thursday, he had not yet realized he was the leader of the South Beach event.
Ronneblad, 18, will finish the equivalent of his high school education in Sweden and then head to college at Texas Tech, where his Swedish accent will come face-to-face with Texas drawls.
“It will be a cultural shock,” Ronneblad admitted. “It will be very different.”
Nevertheless, he’s looking forward to it.
“There’s really no similarities, except that it’s quite windy in both places when you play golf.”
Ronneblad is also impressed, and enjoying, his first visit to Miami.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Miami is great. I’m really liking it.”
Ronneblad said he had no plans of celebrating Thursday’s round on South Beach, but might take a visit if he wins the tournament Friday.
“Maybe,” he said with a smile. “It depends on what my coach says.”
South Beach scores
1. Hannes Ronneblad, Sweden, 69-204 (-8); 2. Ryan Burgess, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. 73-205 (-7); Juan Pablo Hernandez, Mexico City, 69-205 (-7); 4. Tommy Mou, Taiwan, 70-206 (-6); Sebastian Soderberg, Sweden, 68-206 (-6); 6. Thomas Birdsey, Trophy Club, Texas, 70-207 (-5); Tyler Gann, Tomball, Texas 70-207 (-5); Hank Lebioda, Winter Springs, 66-207 (-5); Jay Vandeventer, Bristol, Va., 69-207 (-5).
DORAL PUBLIX JUNIOR
Team New England won the 2012 Dave Adamonis Cup, 19-17, on Doral’s Blue Monster course Friday by beating Team Florida. Jake Schuman shot a 73. Play begins Friday in the 16-18 and 14-15 flights of the Doral Publix Junior Classic.
Bill Van Smith
The Alabama Crimson Tide has rolled into South Florida.
No, not the football team playing in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7 at Sun Life Stadium, but the men’s golf team at the Dixie Amateur.
A pair of Alabama golfers — Tom Lovelady and Trey Mullinax — each shot a third-round-best 9-under-par 63 at Heron Bay Golf Course to move to second and third, respectively, on the leaderboard.
Lovelady, a redshirt freshman for the Crimson Tide, is currently 11-under 204 through three rounds, and Mullinax, a junior, is two behind him at 9-under 206.
The field of more than 200 golfers played a round each at Heron Bay, Woodlands and Palm-Aire Tuesday through Thursday, and now the 73 players to make the cut will go at it for a fourth and final round Friday at Heron Bay.
Daniel Berger, a Florida State sophomore from Jupiter who has led the Dixie Amateur since day one, shot a 7-under 65 Thursday at Woodlands to build a nine-stroke lead over second-place Lovelady.
Although neither Lovelady nor Mullinax is likely to catch Berger, the two exceeded expectations.
“I don’t really think we both expected 63s, but we’ve both been hitting it pretty good recently,” Lovelady said. “I guess it didn’t really show much the first two rounds, and I guess everything kind of came together for both of us [Thursday].”
Both improved steadily after starting the tournament with a 2-over 74 Tuesday at Palm-Aire, the course many call the most difficult of the three. They then kept Wednesday’s scores under par at Woodlands before arriving at Heron Bay.
On Thursday, the two teammates turned in scorecards that had nine birdies without a bogey.
Seeing each other on the golf course is no new sight for either player. The two recall first meeting each other at golf tournaments as early as middle school and have been friends ever since.
“We get to battle each other a lot, but we like it. We know it’s a competition,” Mullinax said. “We don’t try to beat each other up; we’re still friends when the day’s over.”
While Lovelady and Mullinax each gained two strokes on Berger, Berger has essentially made the Dixie Amateur a one-man race heading into the final round. With a nine-stroke lead, he merely needs to avoid a catastrophe Friday to become the 82nd winner of the tournament.
Dixie Amateur scores
1. Daniel Berger, Jupiter/FSU, 63-67-65 —195 (-20); 2. Tom Lovelady, Birmingham, Ala./Alabama, 74-67-63 — 204 (-11); 3. Trey Mullinax, Mount Olive, Ala./Alabama, 74-69-63 — 206 (-9); 4. Derek Oland, McKinney, Texas, 68-68-71 — 207 (-8); T5. Richard Werenski, South Hadley, Mass., 71-67-70 — 208 (-7); T5. Sam Horsfield, Davenport, 70-70-68 —208 (-7); T5. Jason Roets, Howey-in-the-Hills, 67-71-70 — 208 (-7).