Riccardo Fantinelli insists his mental strength allowed him to deal with the emotions of a rollercoaster round and emerge with a one-shot lead heading into the final day’s play in the Carris Trophy.
The Italian thought his chances of winning the English Boys’ Open Amateur Stroke Play title were slipping with three bogeys in the opening four holes of his third round.
At that point England’s Harley Smith – who had shared the halfway lead with Fantinelli on seven under par – had moved five shots clear of his playing partner thanks to two birdies on the same set of holes.
However, Fantinelli recovered his poise in time to fire seven birdies and drop just one more shot en route to a round of 67.
A flawless back nine of 31, helped by four birdies including a holed bunker shot for a two on the 13th hole, saw Fantinelli end the day on ten under par.
That leaves him a shot clear of Smith who continues to impress on the biggest junior stage.
Although disappointed with a three-putt par on the last, the Essex golfer showed character to get it round in 68 when not quite firing on all cylinders.
Scotland’s Calum Scott is three adrift of Fantinelli after a three under par round of 67.
Another Scot, Auchterarder’s Daniel Bullen, is four back of the leader after a solid round of level par 70.
Helped by having friend Rocky Chapman on the bag, Fantinelli was proud of how he handled the challenging start to his round.
“It did feel like two different days,” he admitted.
“I started playing good golf on the 7th. From there I played solid golf.
“That’s where the caddie really helps. I was frustrated after my start and he told me to be patient, hang on as there were loads of birdie chances – and he was right.
“It was the mental game that helped – I was more focused, had a couple of lucky bounces and got putts rolling in.”
After dumping his tee shot in the sand, holing out from the bunker on 13 was a sweet moment. “Seriously lucky, but also a good shot” was the player’s honest and humble assessment.
Fantinelli’s parents are tracking his progress from their home in Rome and he knows it could be a nervous online watch for them tomorrow.
“I don’t see it as a one shot lead – one shot is nothing,” he explained.
“It’s a three-footer missed. Tomorrow is a new day and the player who plays best will win.”
Smith is bidding to become only the second player to win the McGregor Trophy (for under 16 boys) and the Carris Trophy (for under 18 boys) in the same season.
A certain Justin Rose managed to pull it off in 1995 as he started out on his path to stardom.
Smith will relish the chance to emulate the England Golf ambassador’s feat after a slightly frustrating day when his irons were spot on but the driver misbehaved.
There was a highlight, though, on the seventh when he holed for a birdie from a greenside bunker (pictured below).
Smith added: “I was two under through nine and playing nicely and then I hung on the back nine. I didn’t play my best and was a bit wayward off the tee.
“A three-putt par on the last was frustrating after a good approach to the green.
“I hit better iron shots than yesterday even though the score was two shots worse. I just wasn’t too great off the tee and put myself in tough situations.
“If I play good golf and sharpen up off the tee and roll my putter I’ll put up a fight and see what happens.”
Scotland’s Scott (pictured below) is definitely not out the mix after a 68 built on two previous rounds of 68 and 67.
“I’ll give it a crack in the final round,” he said.
“I’m a few back so I’ll see how it goes. Three shots is nothing though – birdie and bogey and you’re only one back.”
On another baking hot day, there were other notable scores from the chasing pack.
Royal Liverpool’s Matt Dodd-Berry is six shots back after a round of 68 left him on four under par for the championship.
Jack Bigham continued his recovery from an opening round of 74 by posting a fine score of 65 to join Thomas Pyman in a tie for sixth on three under par.