RALEIGH, N.C. – B.J. Staten rolled in a 50-foot birdie on the final hole Saturday to move into sole possession of the 54-hole lead at the Rex Hospital Open on the Nationwide Tour. Staten, a lefty from Utah, capped off a 5-under 66 with his second-longest putt of the week to get to 13-under 200, one better than playing partner Jim Renner 67), the first-round leader.
“I made about an 80-footer in my practice round,” said Staten, who won a ‘friendly wager’ with his caddie on Tuesday.
Scott Parel (67), Reid Edstrom (68) and second-round leader Justin Hicks (71) share third place at TPC Wakefield Plantation, three back of Staten, who is in search of his first career title on the Nationwide Tour.
Josh Broadaway (65), James Hahn (69), Charlotte’s Jeff Curl (70) and Shane Bertsch (70) are four off the lead heading into Sunday’s finale.
The tournament is back on schedule after a pair of rain delays Friday kept half the field from finishing the second round. Renner and Staten were among those who returned to the course early Saturday morning. Renner had completed only six holes of his round and Staten just seven.
Staten reeled off 11 straight pars to end his round, while Renner played his final 13 even-par as well. They were two shots back of Hicks, who had polished off his second straight 66 Friday morning and had a 26-hour rest before starting Round 3.
Staten got off to a quick start in the third round with birdies on four of his first six holes to jump into the lead at 12 under par. An errant tee shot on the par-4 eighth resulted in a bogey, his first of the week.
“I think I’ve been really patient all week and just come out trying to hit fairways and greens,” he said. “Anytime you can go 43 holes before you make your first one, you know you’re going to make some birdies and have some opportunities.”
Staten had two bogeys in the round, but bounced back immediately with a birdie on the following hole.
“It’s usually the other way around,” he joked. “I’ll usually birdie a hole and then get too fast or lose my rhythm. It was nice to have par 5s after the bogeys so I had a chance to hit a wedge in there close.”
Steady for the rest of a long day, Staten finds himself atop the 54-hole leaderboard for the fourth time but has yet to break into the winner’s circle.
“I think I’ve learned a lot from those opportunities. Whether you’re playing college golf, or mini-tour golf or golf at this level you’ve got to find a way to put four rounds together and obviously that’s difficult sometimes,” said Staten.
“I’m sure somebody will go low, somebody always does, that’s the nature of the quality of play out here. If it’s not one person it might be two or three. You’ve got to keep your foot to the pedal and I think anybody would tell you that.”
--Josh Broadaway’s 65 matched the second-lowest third-round score of his career. He shot a 64 in the third round of the Panama Claro Championship earlier this year.
--This is the fourth time B.J. Staten has held/shared the lead after three rounds in 136 career starts on the Nationwide Tour (including this week). He shared the lead at the 2010 Melwood Prince George’s County Open (tied for 30th) and the 2010 Mexico Open Bicentenary (second in a playoff). He also held the outright lead at the 2011 WNB Golf Classic (tied for 10th).
--Second-round Justin Hicks is seeking his third career win, after the 2008 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic and the 2010 BMW Charity Pro-Am. Hicks stumbled with a double bogey at No. 17 Saturday, but recovered with a short birdie putt on No. 18 to get back within three of the lead.
--Scott Parel, who is tied for third, has not won on Tour, has not had a top-10 finish on the Nationwide Tour since a solo fourth at the 2008 South Georgia Classic – a span of 53 starts.
--Reid Edstrom is also tied for third. His career best finish in 25 previous starts is a solo seventh at this event in 2008.
--Oscar Serna was tied for second after 36 holes and one off the lead but bogeyed five of his first six holes and dropped back to 4 under par. A birdie at the par-5 ninth gave him a 4-over 40 on the front. He rallied with four birdies on his final six holes for a back-nine 32. He is tied for 10th heading into the last round.