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Jim dandy

Jim Woodward of Oklahoma City birdied three of his first four holes Saturday en route to a 69, and the lead in the race for low PGA Professional honors. Woodward needed only 27 holes in his stellar third round.

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Jim Woodward's 69 Saturday was his best round in his four career starts in the Senior PGA Championship. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

By Bob Denney, The PGA of America

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Jim Woodward of Oklahoma City birdied three of his first four holes Saturday at Valhalla Golf Club, just the tonic he needed to record a 3-under-par 69 and take the lead among 12 PGA club professionals still competing in the 72nd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid. Woodward, a PGA teaching professional at Oak Tree National Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., owns a 54-hole total of 1-over-par 217 in his fourth consecutive appearance in the oldest and most prestigious event in senior golf.

The 53-year-old Woodward stumbled just twice along the route of the 7,055-yard Valhalla layout with bogeys at the sixth and 14th holes. He began play on the back nine, collecting birdies at 10, 11, 13, 18, and returning to the front where he birdie the No. 1 hole. He needed only 27 putts in his bid to capture the Low PGA Club Professional honors Sunday.

Stu Ingraham of Newtown Square, Pa., was next at 220 after a 77, and Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., one shot furthr back at 221 after struggling in with a 76.

While his contemporaries were having problems, Woodward made up for a 73 and 75 in the first two rounds by posting his career-best round in the Championship.

“I just didn’t make any real bad swings today. The first two days I made some real bad swings and they cost me,” said Woodward.

After two soggy days in which the field was allowed “preferred lies,” Woodward said that he found little or no mud on his ball in Valhalla’s fairways.

“The golf course has really dried out well,” he said. “I would rather play it down.”

Woodward said that he and his fellow PGA Professionals take pride in battling for Low PGA Club Professional honors in the Championship.

“Once you get to our age, I think we're a little more competitive than say the younger guys against the tour players,” said Woodward. “We don't have to have all the length and we have still got a little game as long as our bodies hold up. I wouldn't say we're overall competitive still, but we can hold our own. Any time that you're representing The PGA of America, I mean any time we play in a major, you want to play well.”

Woodward closed his round by hitting an approach to left of the uphill ninth green, then pitching to eight feet below the hole and saving par.

“As hard as I played I didn't want to mess around,” he said. “I got a mud ball off the fairway and it hooked on me, but it's better left than right there and I knew it would be. So luckily, I got it up and down. I don't want to bogey the last hole.”

Ingraham, who came into Saturday’s round after a solid 70, could not find any rhythm.

“Today, between my allergies and my feet being sore, I had nothing today. I really just didn't have it,” said Ingraham, a six-time Philadelphia PGA Player of the Year. “I was very tired, I can hardly see right now my eyelids are so bad.  It got me with two holes to play yesterday and it got me with about six holes to play today. But the course is good, we just didn't play very well.”