The wind continued to wreak havoc at PGA Golf Club's Wanamaker Course, but was able to carry Scott Berliner of Albany, N.Y., and Aaron Clark of Springfield, Mo., to a share of the 54-hole lead Saturday in the 35th Callaway Golf PGA Assistant Championship.
Berliner, the first- and second-round leader, and Clark, who began the day a stroke back, are tied at 7-under-par and a 209 total.
With winds continuing to gust around 20 mph throughout much of the day, Berliner, who shot a 1-under-par 71, and Clark, who finished with a 70, struggled on the final hole, but were able to maintain a stroke advantage over Anthony Casalino of Yonkers, N.Y., and Ryan Sikora of Greensburg, Pa., who are tied for third.
"There are literally five holes out here where I don't feel comfortable off the tee, and 18 is one of them," said Berliner, who had a double on 18 in the second round. "I made a pretty solid bogey putt today, and that may pay dividends tomorrow. It's going to be a close finish."
The PGA assistant professional at Normanside Country Club in Delmar, N.Y., Berliner expects the wind to play a factor again on Sunday.
"If the wind is going to be the same as it has been the last two days, which I think it will, it is going to be really hard tomorrow," said Berliner. "I have to be a little more committed and hit each shot, not second guess myself in the middle of my backswing."
Aaron Clark, a PGA apprentice at Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield, Mo., used three back-nine birdies to put himself in position for his first National Championship title.
"My round wasn't too bad, all things considered," said Clark, who finished in a tie for 10th in 2010. "The hole locations were tough and with the wind picking up it was really my for a rough day for everybody. Once the wind really picked up in the afternoon, you had to be spot on to get the ball close."
Berliner and Clark played in the final group together in the third round, and are excited about the opportunity to play again together Sunday.
"Both Scott and I had some loose shots and we weren't committed as much as we could have been," said Clark. "But we played well enough to lead and had a good time all things considered."
Casalino, who shot a third-round 71 and struggled with his swing for much of the round, was able to bounce back with birdies on two of his final three holes.
"I played awful today and I was all over the place," said Casalino. "I birdied 16 and chipped in on 17, which helped me get back in it. But I can't play like this again tomorrow."
Sikora, a PGA assistant professional at Pittsburgh (Pa.) Field Club, used four birdies on his back nine en route to a third-round 69.
"I have started my rounds off pretty bad the first three days and had to make up ground with birdies on the back each time," said Sikora. "If I can eliminate those early mistakes, then I will have a real chance tomorrow afternoon."
2011 CALLAWAY GOLF PGA ASSISTANT CHAMPIONSHIP
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Defending Champion Frank Bensel of Purchase, N.Y., a PGA assistant professional at Century Country Club in Purchase N.Y., shot a third-round 72 and sits in a tie for 24th.
Following play Friday, the field was reduced to the low 70 scorers and ties, with 71 players making the cut at 5-over-par 149.
The 2011 Championship featured 126 PGA assistant professionals and apprentices. The format was changed in 2010 to include the top-4 finishers from last year's Championship as well as 122 players who advanced through their Section Championship.
Callaway Golf returned as the title sponsor for the third consecutive year.
At stake, provided the Champion meets eligibility requirements, is a coveted spot in the 45th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car and Mercedes-Benz, June 24-27, 2012, at Bayonet and Black Horse in Seaside, Calif.
Additionally, the top 10 finishers and ties earn a berth into the first stage of the 2012 PGA Tour Qualifying School.
The PGA Assistant Championship continues a tradition of excellence in bringing together some of the most talented players in The PGA of America as well as being models of the caliber of members who make up the world's largest working sports organization.
Past champions include former Ryder Cup Team members Fred Funk and Loren Roberts, and past PGA Professional National Champions Darrell Kestner, Tim Thelen and Bruce Zabriski. Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Champion, finished in a tie for third in 1998.