PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Lonnie Nielsen and Josh Rackley had never met until this week, but that lack of familiarity hasn’t stopped them from being just 18 holes away from winning the PGA Senior-Junior Championship at PGA Golf Club.
Neilsen and Rackley combined for a 7-under 65 Thursday to move to 23-under 193 and take a one-shot lead over two teams entering Friday’s final round on the Ryder Course.
When Nielsen’s usual partner, Alexander Weir, couldn’t play this year, Weir suggested Rackley, a PGA Assistant Professional from Gulph Mills Golf Club in Pennsylvania. When Nielsen learned Rackley had won the Haverford Philadelphia PGA Classic and its $100,000 first prize last summer, he was sold.
“I figured the guy had to have a lot of guts when he won $100,000 in a playoff and second place was only $5,000,” said Nielsen, who won twice on the Champions Tour.
Rackley also has some creativity, as he showed in Wednesday’s second round when he holed a bunker shot at the par-5 13th hole – hitting it backhanded! That fueled a 12-under 60 that moved them into contention.
“We all went crazy,” Nielsen said. “Because of his stance, he was almost down to the hosel and he had to have his back to the hole. It was a magical shot.”
Yet they are just one shot ahead of the teams of Kirk Hanefield-Troy Pare (64) and second-round leaders Denny Dolci-Kevin Shields (67).
Three more teams are just two shots back at 21-under: Bruce Zabriski-Shaun Powers (66), Jeff-Seavey-Shawn Warren (66) and Bob Sowards-Rick Schuller, who shot the low round of the tournament, a 12-under 60 on the Wanamaker Course.
“We both shot about 66 today, so we ham-and-egged it real well,” Sowards said. “We knew we needed a big round to have a chance tomorrow. It’s probably going to take 28- to 30-under to win.”
The duo of JC Anderson and Rod Perry, who won the PGA Senior-Junior in 2014, are three shots back.
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by Premier Golf and Golf Advisor.