Ryan Sikora 'grinds' to lead by two at Fuhrer Invitational

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Heading to the 18th hole Tuesday of the third round of the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational, Ryan Sikora had, by his own definition, "grinded" through 17 holes.

Sikora, a Hannastown Golf Club professional, had had some ups and downs, but held a two-stroke lead on the field heading into the final hole, when he tee shot went well left of the green on the par-3 18th at Pittsburgh Field Club.

No matter, though, Sikora made his chip within 3 feet and converted a par putt to finish the day with a 1-under 69.

"I was lucky to make par there," Sikora said. "I was just trying to give myself a putt at it."

Sikora stands atop the leader board at 4-under 206 through three rounds, trailed by mini-tour pro Mike Van Sickle of Pine-Richland High School at 208.

Sikora and Van Sickle, playing together, began the round tied at 3under.

Through nine holes, Sikora sat at even par, but had battled through an up-and-down front nine that included three bogeys and three birdies.

His only true mistake on the front nine came on his drive on the par-4 eighth, which went into the trees along the left-hand side of the fairway. Sikora had to play the hole down the left-hand rough and ended up settling for bogey.

He made up for it with a perfect approach shot on the par-4 ninth that landed within 3 feet of the pin and gave him an easy birdie.

"I just hung in there," Sikora said. "The golf course is tough. The pins were tucked and it was tough to make birdies."

His back nine was less eventful, with a string of steady pars marked with a bogey on the par-3 14th and birdies on the par-5 15th and par-3 16th.

Van Sickle also had to deal with his share of ups and downs. He moved as low as 4 under after a birdie on the par-5 11th.

His 2-foot bogey putt on the 14th lipped out, though, and the 5 he took there left him with work to do heading into the final round.

Van Sickle had an opportunity to make up for the mistake on the 15th, when he had a 20-foot eagle putt come up just short.

"I just have too many memories of these greens being super fast," he said. "With the heat and the humidity, they just can't get them as fast as they have been in the past. I had three or four [Tuesday] that were going to drop if I just gave them enough to get there."

He did save par on the par-4 17th after his approach shot landed in a bunker to the right of the green. A short-side chip shot and a easy putt kept him within striking distance of Sikora.

"I could see the top of the pin, but it's all running away so fast there," Van Sickle said. "I was dead and I just kind of pulled [out a par]."

Van Sickle finished with a 1-over 71. David Bradshaw carded the low round of the day Tuesday with a 5-under 65. He is tied with Nathan Sutherland in third place at 1 over for the tournament.

Sikora and Van Sickle will play as partners again today in the final round of the $175,000-purse tournament. The winner will take home $35,000.

"I'm just going to try to play as aggressively as I can ... ," Sikora said. "I'm going to try and play well, not take myself out of it and give myself a chance on the back nine."

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Sam Werner: swerner@post-gazette.com and Twitter @SWernerPG.


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