Be careful what you wish for?

Luke Clanton, a junior-to-be at Florida State this fall, has traveled in the same elite golf circles with Nick Dunlap. Clanton, of course, watched, along with the rest of the sporting world, in utter disbelief as Dunlap captured The American Express Championship in January to become only the third amateur since 1957 to win on the PGA Tour.

The victory earned Dunlap immediate status on the PGA Tour, but it also came with the extremely difficult decision for the then-World Amateur No. 1 to leave behind the Alabama teammates he was so closely bonded with. Dunlap has been the first to admit that life on the pro tour has been difficult at times, both on and off the course, and Clanton has heard plenty of it.

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So imagine what he might be thinking now that Clanton has given himself a realistic chance to match Dunlap’s achievement only six months later. Clanton shot a seven-under-par 65 on Saturday at Detroit Golf Club to stand only three shots behind co-leaders Aaron Rai and Akshay Bhatia (both at 17 under) heading into the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

Clanton, 20, is tied for seventh, so would have to overcome six players ahead and three who are tied with him—a far more daunting task than Dunlap had in the California desert, when the then-Alabama sophomore held a three-shot lead going into Sunday. But it is still a remarkable showing for the golfer who set the all-time FSU mark for season scoring average (69.33) and became the first Seminole to win three straight tournaments.

Coincidence or not, Dunlap is also in contention this week and tied for 10th. Another recently graduated college player, Ohio State’s Neal Shipley, stands at T-19.

Maybe these performances shouldn’t be so surprising anymore—even if this is Clanton’s first-ever PGA Tour start, with him getting in on a sponsor’s exemption into a field that is lighter on stars.

“It’s cool, man,” Clanton said. “I think amateurs now, we’re so good. I think a lot of guys have great chances of winning out here, and to be in contention with one day to go is pretty sweet.”

If Clanton were to win in Detroit, he’d face the same decision as Dunlap—a two-year PGA Tour exemption or stay in school. Asked on Saturday how long he planned to stay in college, Clanton said, “All four years. Yeah, I love Florida State.

“I play golf to play golf,” said Clanton, who obviously has a form of NIL deal because he has the logo of a mortgage company on his hat and shirt this week. “I think being able to play golf with your buddies every single day, it’s something you don’t get very much. I’ve got 12 dudes on that team that I absolutely love, so it’s awesome.”

Clanton has seemed completely comfortable in this arena. In the third round, he birdied five of the first 11 holes, suffered his only bogey at No. 12 and made a spectacular eagle at the par-5 14th by rifling his -5-iron approach from 227 yards to three feet. Clanton made his final birdie at 17.

For the week, Clanton has produced an impressive statistical combination, ranking first in strokes gained/off the tee (he’s fourth in driving distance at 319.20) and sixth in putting. It doesn’t more dangerous than that.

“I think we’ve done so well,” Clanton said. “I shot seven under today, it was amazing, but we could have made a couple more birdies out there. My game plan has been the same all week, pound driver as hard as I can and get it down there and make a few putts, and it’s been good.”

He said he peeked at the scoreboard a few times during the round, but near the end, he and his caddie, Jason Wiertel, had other things on their minds. “We were talking about where to go to eat already,” Clanton said.

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