McCormick Clouser lives in Indiana, attends Ball State University and plays and practices golf in the Hoosier state. Those rounds and practices are way too often in the cold or snow or indoors.
“It’s tough,” Clouser said.
So, he thought he would come down to South Florida to play in the Dixie Amateur to polish his game … actually, he sheepishly admitted, he came to get out of the snow and soak in some Florida rays.
“I came down here this week expecting not to play well at all,” he said with a smile.
“He came down here just to have fun,” said his coach, Jim Gallagher.
Clouser, who shot 66 on Saturday for a 12-under-par 204 total, is having plenty of fun. So much fun he is leading the prestigious Dixie Amateur by four shots.
Three Florida players are tied for second: Coral Springs’ Curtis Thompson, the 2011 Dixie winner, at 66-208; St. Petersburg’s Jack Maguire, who had a 67; and Davenport’s Sam Horsfield with a 69.
Asked if he was surprised at what he has done and where he is at in the tournament, Clouser answered without hesitation. “Definitely. Heck, I’m more surprised than anyone.”
Added his coach, who started working with McCormick when he was 7: “He’s very modest.”
However, even Clouser had to be proud of one part of his round Saturday at Heron Bay Golf Club in Coral Springs. It’s not often you make five birdies in a row.
McCormick did just that, making birdies on Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13.
“I was hitting it close to the pin for the most part,” he said. Then he almost apologetically said: “I did make one 50-foot putt for birdie on No. 13.”
All that said and done, the round could have ended in disaster for Clouser.
That would be on No. 18, an extremely tough par-4 hole, particularly with Saturday’s wind. Clouser hit his drive in a fairway bunker to the left.
He hit his second shot in another bunker, also short. He came out of that bunker still short of the green. Then he hit a fairly poor chip shot 12 feet short of the pin.
A double-bogey was beckoning. The wheels were coming off his golf cart. Then he sank the putt for a very trying bogey. The lug nuts were back on.
“I could have doubled No. 18 easily,” he said. “That hole is tough. The bogey was a good effort.”
Clouser finished his round with seven birdies and that one bogey on No. 18.
What is his plan for Sunday’s final round?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Guess it’s just to go out there and have fun once again.”