Junior Orange Bowl International Championship

Renato Paratore’s Orange Bowl lead winds down to two strokes

Renato Paratore shot a 71 as his lead dropped from four strokes to two.
Renato Paratore shot a 71 as his lead dropped from four strokes to two.
Bill Van Smith / For the Miami Herald

Special to the Miami Herald

Italy’s Renato Paratore went into Sunday’s third and next-to-last round of the Junior Orange Bowl International Golf Championship with a four-stroke lead that dwindled down to two by day’s end.

Nevertheless, Paratore remained confident — well, sort of confident.

“Yes, I’ll win it [Monday],” he first said when asked about his chances. Then he quickly changed it to, “I think I’ll win it, but I don’t know for certain.” Finally, he finished with, “I wish I will win it.’’

Paratore has rounds of 67, 67 and 71 for an 8-under-par 205, with Sunday’s round being played in a drizzle at Biltmore Golf Club. Dominic Foos of Germany moved into second with the day’s best round, a 3-under 68 that moved him two strokes behind Paratore.

Tied for third are Guillermo Pereira (70—208) of Chile and Jorge Garcia (also 70—208) of Venezuela, both at three shots back. Although he hails from Venezuela, Garcia lives in South Florida and plays his high school golf for Plantation American Heritage.

Paratore had few problems on Sunday, although he said his iron approach shots “were very bad.”

One shot he would like to have back is his drive on No. 17, the course’s No. 1 handicap hole, a par-4 of 450 yards.

Paratore pulled his drive and the ball somehow made its way through thick rough and barely into the water. After looking at the situation, Paratore took a drop and a penalty stroke, and hit his third shot on the green. He had a 60-foot putt that curved drastically and also had to clear a large ridge. He three-putted and walked off the green shaking his head in frustration.

“There was a long wait on the tee,” he said, referring to two groups in front of his that had backed up. “I was waiting for so long to hit.”

Was he discouraged by the double bogey? Yes, but he put No. 17 quickly out of his mind. “I knew 18 was an easy hole,” he said of the 516-yard, par-5 closing hole. “I said in my mind that I could make a birdie.”

And he did.

“That was very important,” he said.

One of the persons chasing Paratore is Garcia, a 2012 individual Florida state high school champion.

“Anything can happen,” Garcia said. “My putter needs to get a little hotter. I’m hitting the ball really well. I’ve missed only seven or eight greens the whole tournament. Hopefully, I can get it going early on Monday and be in position for the last three holes.”

In the girls’ competition, Canada’s Brooke Henderson and South Korea’s Soyoung Lee started Sunday tied for the lead — and that’s the way they finished the day. Both shot 2-over 73 and are tied at even-par 213. Three strokes back is Linnea Strom of Sweden, who posted the girls’ best round of the day with a 2-under 69 for a 216 total.

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