Although he’s playing in only his eighth Nationwide Tour event this week, Travis Hampshire is a quick learner who knows the value of patience. It was never more evident than Saturday as the man who opened with a 12-under 60 on Thursday at the Carolina Country Club posted a score that was 10 strokes higher. The end result, however, is that Hampshire is again in sole possession of the lead after scratching out a 2-under-par 70, and holds a one-stroke edge over South Korea’s Sunghoon Kang through three rounds of the BMW Charity Pro-Am.
The tournament is spread out over three courses in the Greenville-Spartanburg area, and both Hampshire and Kang completed their rotations Saturday at Bright’s Creek Golf Club near Spring Mill, N.C. The event pairs Nationwide Tour pros with amateurs and celebrities in a better-ball format.
Hampshire, a 2003 graduate of Purdue University, started the day tied for the lead at 15 under with England’s Greg Owen. After playing his front nine even par, Hampshire managed to make a pair of birdies as well as two par saves coming home to regain the top spot on the leaderboard. Hampshire made a 15-foot birdie putt at No. 11 and, after wedging his third shot to three feet for another birdie at the par-5 13th hole, he was able to get up-and-down for par at Nos. 15 and 16 to get into the clubhouse at 17-under 198.
“It was just another solid day and I managed myself pretty well around here for never having seen this golf course before,” Hampshire said. “I really thought the pins were pretty tough here.”
Hampshire and Kang are now in good position to become the Nationwide Tour’s third consecutive first-time winner, joining Ted Potter Jr. (South Georgia Classic) and amateur Russell Henley (Stadion Classic at UGA). However, Hampshire knows there’s still a long way to go Sunday when the final round is back at Thornblade Club, a course where he shot 68 in Round 2.
“I’m doing everything solid,” said Hampshire, whose best finish in six starts this year is a tie for 13th at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open. “I’m controlling my distances into the pin locations and feel really good with the putter in my hands. I hope to keep doing everything the same tomorrow.”
Kang, an exempt player on the PGA Tour, is making his first start on the Nationwide Tour this week. He played in five events earlier this year and made three cuts before taking time off in March and April to return to South Korea in order to fulfill a military commitment, a requirement for citizens in that country. Kang was originally supposed to serve two years, but his stint was reduced to just one month because he was a member of his country’s gold medal-winning team at the 2006 Asian Games. After returning to the Tour, he missed three cuts and is in the field for next week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas.
A group of six players, including local favorite Brent Delahoussaye, are tied for third place at 14-under 202 through 54 holes, three strokes back of Hampshire. Delahoussaye began the day tied for 31st but he recorded eight birdies and a bogey to shoot 7-under 64 at Thornblade Club, his home course. He is joined by 36-hole co-leader Greg Owen, Brendon Todd, Garth Mulroy, Martin Flores and Michael Sims.
“I hit it really good today. I don’t know how many greens I missed, but my birdie putts were really close. I had a lot of tap-ins today,” Delahoussaye said. “I grew up here. I moved here when I was 16 and I’ve been playing here ever since. When you’ve hit a shot a million times at the same golf course, you don’t really get nervous. You’ve done it before and you know you can do it. I feel comfortable out here. I’d much rather play somewhere I’ve played forever, than not.”
-- Travis Hampshire has had 27 one-putt greens in his first 54 holes. He is tied for second in putting this week. Hampshire ranks 125th on Tour this year in putting average.
--The 54-hole cut for the professionals came at 7-under 208, matching the lowest cut in tournament history (2009). A total of 60 pros advance to Sunday’s final round. This is fourth time in the past seven years that exactly 60 players have made the cut.
--Dicky Pride was the last player in the field to make a bogey this week. The Alabama resident suffered a bogey on his ninth hole, the 45th of the week. Pride bounced back with a birdie on his next hole and wound up shooting a 3-under 69. He is 12 under for the week and tied for ninth heading into Sunday.
--Jay Haas, who turned professional in 1977, has made a total of 932 combined starts on the PGA Tour (798) and Champions Tour (134) but is making only his second career start on the Nationwide Tour. Haas posted scores of 69-71-70 (-5) but missed the cut by two strokes. He also missed the cut in this event in 2001.
--Jay Haas, at the age of 57 years, 5 months and 19 days, was trying to become one of the oldest players in Nationwide Tour history to make a cut. Jack Nicklaus was 63 years, 3 months and 19 days when he made the cut in this event back in 2003. Nicklaus went on to finish tied for 45th that week.
--Michael Sims is in position for a possible career-best finish. Sims, a native of Bermuda, has never been better than tied for ninth (2009 Chitimacha Louisiana Open/2009 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open) in any of his previous 76 Nationwide Tour starts. Sims has posted rounds of 68-66-67 (-14) and stands tied for third after 54 holes. His play into the greens is a large of his success to date. He is currently tied for first in Greens in Regulation with 48 of 54/88.9%, compared to his season average of 66.67%, which ranks him tied for 61st.