EAST PROVIDENCE -- When he looks back on his decision, Peter Uihlein is convinced he did the right thing.
Six years ago, at age 13, Uihlein told his parents he wanted to leave home. Already a rising young athlete, he decided he wanted to get serious about golf. So serious that he wanted to leave home in Mattapoisett, Mass., and go to school in Florida.
"I wanted to do it,'' Uihlein said yesterday after shooting a 2-under 67 at Wannamoisett and moving into contention in the 48th Northeast Amateur Invitational. "I wanted to go somewhere where the weather was warmer, play year-round and try and compete with the best players in the world.''
When most 13-year-olds say such things, it is just a pie-in-the sky dream. Rarely does anything come of it.
Uihlein is one of the rare exceptions. Then again, he is different than most, both in background and in maturity. He not only followed through with his idea, he has made it work.
"I was 13. I already had played pretty competitive basketball. I had an older brother. I was always in age groups ahead of me and was more mature, I guess,'' he said. "I made a lot of decisions on my own.''
He did not set out on his own. His mother, Tina, went with him as he attended the IMG Academy/David Leadbetter Golf Academy in Bradenton, Fla. His father, Wally, stayed in Mattapoisett because that is where he works, which leads to how Peter Uihlein even had such dreams.
Wally Uihlein just happens to be one of the most powerful men in golf. He is the president and CEO of the Acushnet Co., parent of the Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra and Pinnacle brands. He knows golf and knows talent.
Thanks to the decision to move to Florida, the younger Uihlein is now one of the top young golfers in the world. He has won numerous junior tournaments. He is one of the few players ever to be named national player of the year twice (2005 and 2007) by the American Junior Golf Association, the largest junior golf organization in the world. He just finished his freshman year at Oklahoma State, where he combined with Rickie Fowler, Morgan Hoffman, Kevin Tway and Trent Leon to make the Cowboys the top-ranked college team in the country most of the season.
At age 19, he is now 63rd in the men's amateur rankings in the country. And that could get even better with one more good round on Saturday. Uihlein, who has gotten to play Wannamoisett a number of times, stands at 5-under 202 through three rounds, four off the lead and in a tie for sixth place.
Duke's Adam Long birdied each of the last two holes to shoot 67 and move to 9-under 198 -- the lowest total in the tournament's 48-year history.
He needed to set a record to have the lead. Recent Penn State grad Robert Rohanna also birdied the final hole for a 65 and 199, matching the record that had been shared by Kyle Reifers in 2005 and Luke Donald in 2000.
The two leaders figure to be tough to catch. Long had a third-round 67. He had nine straight pars on the front side, the third day in a row he has been even on the front. His 33 on the back, including a 20-footer for bird on 17 and an eight-footer on 18, gave him the lead.
Rohanna, who also challenged through three rounds in the Northeast last year, temporarily took the lead when he had birds of 11, 13, 15 and 18 for a 31 on the back and a round of 65.
Defending champion Brendan Gielow of Wake Forest also put himself squarely in contention with a 66 for 201. Dan Woltman of Wisconsin and David Holmes of Tennessee also are in a 201.
Uihlein is in a tie at 202 with mid am Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh and Matt Savage, a Florida State product. Uihlein's name stands out among the contenders because, well, because those who follow the game know his father heads the most prestigious company in the game. Peter Uihlein long since has grown accustomed to the added recognition his name draws.
"I don't mind,'' he says. "My dad is like any other dad. It is what it is, I can't change anything.'' What he does focus on is carving out a name for himself. He handles the issue with a calm, level-headed approach.
"I'm a little more traditional and old school,'' he said. "I'd like to try and earn it.''