PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – If anything, Saturday’s third round of the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship demonstrated the resilience of Derek Berg. PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course is playing host to the 41st edition of the Championship.
The 36-year-old PGA Assistant Professional at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington, turned in his third under-par scorecard of the Championship (68-67-71); however, it didn’t come easy. Berg entered the third round with a one-stroke lead on the field, but three bogeys offset two birdies on the front nine. Another bogey at hole 11 dropped Berg to 2-over on the day.
“I hit enough good golf shots, but didn’t make the putts,” said Berg, who hails from Duvall, Washington. “I wasn’t the same as yesterday through nine with the putter. I just didn’t make anything, which was the story early on.”
MORE: Round 3 scores from Assistant PGA Pro Championship | Full coverage | Photos
For the third consecutive day, Berg birdied the par-5 13th, which kick start a string of four straight birdies. Berg stumbled on the par-3 17th with a three-putt bogey, yet remains on top of the field by one stroke with a 10-under 206 through 54 holes.
“I made a nice birdie on 13 and then I got fortunate on 14,” said Berg. “I smashed one into the hole that would’ve gone pretty far by. And then I picked up a couple more. Momentum went the other way a little bit. As windy as it was, it was really hard to judge shots.”
A couple of 23-year-old PGA Assistant Professionals, Ryan Botts and Callum McNeill, will join Berg in the final group on Sunday, as both trail by one stroke at 9-under 207. Botts, of Old Hickory (Tennessee) Country Club, dropped two strokes on his first hole, but followed with a birdie on the second. Four birdies and two bogeys later, Botts finished with a third-round tally of 71.
Like Berg, McNeill struggled early with what he described as “a bit of a shaky start.” After beginning 1-over through six holes, McNeill sank three straight birdies to close out his front nine.
“To start, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous,” said McNeill, who works at The Clubs at Houston Oaks in Hockley, Texas. “On the back nine, I told myself to keep it steady; hit fairways and greens. You’re going to have chances. You just have to stay patient. I’m quite happy with where I am.”
Benjamin Cook, a 24-year-old PGA Assistant Professional at Beechmont Country Club in Beachwood, Ohio, recovered from two bogeys through his first four holes by compiling seven birdies from holes 5 to 16 to reach 10-under for the Championship. However, a double-bogey on 18 dropped Cook to 8-under heading into the final round. Ryan Zylstra, a 38-year-old PGA Assistant Professional at The Federal Club in Glen Allen, Virginia, joins Cook in a tie for fourth, two back of the lead.
Greg Sonnier, a PGA Assistant Professional at Lake Charles (Louisiana) Country Club, soared 43 spots up the leaderboard after the day’s low round with a 6-under 66. He sits in a tie for 12th, trailing the lead by seven.
“I’ve done a good job staying in the moment,” said Berg. “Being honest with myself, I tend to get a little ahead, a little behind sometimes. I’ve been pretty good about mentally staying on the hole or the shot I’m playing. I can’t control anything beyond that.”
To honor Veterans Day, the 18th hole’s pin flag was replaced with an American flag.
The 41st National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship is supported by Cleveland Golf, Srixon, XXIO, John Deere, and Golf Advisor.
The National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Champion, if eligible, will earn a berth in the 2018 PGA Professional Championship. In addition, the top-4 finishers and ties will earn a berth in the 2018 National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, if eligible.
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