SEASIDE, Calif. –- Ryan Vermeer landed a new job last month as PGA Director of Instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska.
On a blustery cold Tuesday afternoon by the Monterey Bay, Vermeer put on a clinic that would play well at home as he took command after 54 holes in the 51st PGA Professional Championship presented by Club Car and OMEGA.
The 40-year-old former University of Kansas All-American broke out of a three-way tie at the top to register a third consecutive 2-under-par 70 in the largest all-professional national championship. His 54-hole total of 6-under-par 210 gave him a three-stroke advantage over Shawn Warren of Falmouth, Maine, who posted a 68.
Michael Block, the 2014 PGA Professional Champion from Aliso Viejo, California, staged the day’s biggest rally, firing a 66 – the best round of the Championship. He led a foursome at 214 that included Mitch Lowe of San Francisco (70); Johan Kok of Nashville, Tennessee (71); and 2013 Champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Florida (73).
RELATED: View the leaderboard | Watch Round 3 highlights
The low 20 scorers following Wednesday’s final round earn a berth in the 100th PGA Championship, Aug. 9-12, at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis.
"It was an awesome day,” said Vermeer, who appears poised to make his second straight PGA Championship appearance. “Obviously, there were a few putts out there that I would have liked to have gotten in the hole. But if at the beginning of the day, you had told me I'd shoot 70 again, I'd have taken it in a heartbeat. If I am stuck on that number for the whole week, I think I'll be alright.”
On a Bayonet Course that yields very little by tradition, Vermeer was able to navigate his way through 54 holes with only five bogeys all week.
"Honestly, I didn't get that cold until the last few holes, when it started to get a little chillier. I just told myself going in, it was going to be a hard day again. Not a lot of us (PGA Professionals) play in front of cameras and television, so you just have to go about your business and do your thing. I think I did a good job staying patient.
RELATED: Warren soars up leaderboard with two eagles in Round 3
"I hit the ball really, really well. Honestly, I have not made many putts. I've taken advantage when I hit it close to the hole, but outside of that, I have not made much of anything. If I keep playing like I am, I think I'll be alright."
Vermeer birdied the par-5 No. 10 hole with a solid up-and-down after a lackluster second shot. “Getting that birdie on 10 and saving (par) on 11 was nice to get that momentum and then keep it," he said.
Warren, a PGA Assistant Professional at Falmouth (Maine) Country Club, is making his fifth Championship appearance and has yet to gain a berth in a major championship. He highlighted his day by rolling in a 20-foot putt for eagle on No. 1 and added a second eagle at No. 8 after putting from a collection area.
“I was fortunate to get off to a good start and eagle the first hole, then I eagled No. 8,” said Warren. “Getting those on the front side gave me a little cushion. The back nine was brutal, as it got cold and windy. I gave a few back and was able to take advantage of both par 5s with birdies.
“It’s probably a lot warmer in Maine today that it is here.”
RELATED: Block in position for ultimate homecoming
Block, the PGA Head Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California, missed the cut last Saturday in the U.S. Open but has not shown any ill effects of traveling across the country to compete for a berth in a PGA Championship.
He turned in his lowest 18-hole score in 17 Championship rounds with a seven-birdie, one bogey performance.
“Last night, I sat in bed using a ball marking tool - a gift we received for competing in last week’s U.S. Open,” said Block. “So, I drew a black line on my golf balls. It worked.
“The putter finally came to life. My putting was atrocious the first two days. But today my putter was a superstar.
“I still don’t have my legs under me, and that’s why I’m not driving it that well. I’m worn out, but I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing.”
RELATED: View photos from Round 3 at Bayonet Black Horse
Joined by his 13-year-old son, Dylan, who is caddying for the first time in his life, Block is on a mission to gain a berth in the PGA Championship in St. Louis. That’s the city where he grew up and later attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“I have had Bellerive on my calendar since it was announced as the PGA site,” said Block. “I grew up within a couple miles of the club. My high school was a mile from Bellerive. It’s been a goal of mine for I can’t tell you how long.”
Block’s son was a hero for him Monday afternoon, when he found his father’s errant golf ball in a burrowed animal hole on the 15th hole. Block went on to birdie the hole and get into position to make the first cut of 90 low scorers and ties.
“For him to find that ball yesterday was absolutely crazy,” said Block. “I would have been on the road right now heading back to work.”
Notes: Thirteen of the 20 PGA Professionals that advanced to play in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club made the 54-hole cut at Bayonet Black Horse and will compete Wednesday. Through three rounds, there have been 14 rounds in the 60s, and six of those were carded Tuesday. Four of the top nine names on the leaderboard are former PGA Professional Champions.
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