Omar Uresti arose at 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning to complete two holes and share the lead of a delayed second round, then found a second gear in the afternoon with bookend eagles on the front nine to charge to a six-stroke lead after 54 holes of the 32nd Senior PGA Professional Championship.
The 51-year-old Austin, Texas native and winner of the 2017 PGA Professional Championship, eagled the par-5 first hole with a 15-foot putt, then holed out from 130 yards with a 9-iron for eagle at the 388-yard, par-4 ninth on the Wanamaker Course.
The double thunderbolt effort gave Uresti momentum for a 6-under-par 66 and set the 54-hole championship scoring record with a 15-under-par 200 total. He bettered the previous third-round mark of Jeff Coston of Blaine, Washington, by a stroke.
"I've been looking forward to this week. I was anxious," said Uresti, a PGA Life Member. "I normally get up at home around 8 a.m., so I was hoping to just not do anything crazy this morning. I parred 17 and third birdied 18."
Uresti said his home preparation wasn't promising before arriving in Florida.
"I hadn't been striking it well. I've been able to scramble but don't get me wrong," he said. "I've hit a lot of good shots so far. I am making some putts and that's the big thing."
Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, the 2018 winner, closed with a birdie for a 69 and 206 total to lead the chase after Uresti. Sowards also won the 2003 PGA Professional Championship, and beat Uresti two years ago at PGA Golf Club for the senior national crown.
Defending Champion Scott Hebert of Traverse City, Michigan (70), Paul Stankowski of Flower Mound, Texas (70) and Frank Bensel of Jupiter, Florida (73), shared third place at 208.
Just before the third round, Uresti and Sowards warmed up socially distanced from each other on the practice range. The wind, which had been absent through the first two rounds, began to howl.
Uresti turned to Sowards and said with a grin, "Hey, this wind is good for you and me,"
As the round unfolded, Uresti was the player with wind in his sails. His two eagles, four birdies and two bogeys made for a pleasant evening resting on the lead.
"Bob and I are rooming together this week," said Uresti, who recalled his sharing runner-up honors to Sowards two years ago. "We'll go back and have dinner together tonight and then watch another episode of 'The Ranch,' on Netflix. We both found we like it."
Sowards, who has made PGA Golf Club his "Ranch" over the past 15 years and won a variety of premier PGA Member events, is a two-time Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year and the PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio.
He closed his third round by running home a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to forge his way into Sunday's final pairing.
"I hit a 6-iron from the bunker to a tough pin position and made a pretty good putt," said Sowards. "I hit it good today and made two good putts (led by his opening-hole birdie). It was playing hard with the wind and I'm happy with a 69.
"Being three back going into today, I felt anything in the 60s would keep me in the hunt. I might need help tomorrow, but I will look forward to going out and trying hard again."
Hebert, who captured last year's championship in Austin, Texas, with a final-round back-nine rally, nearly found the same magic midway through his third round at PGA Golf Club.
He made a sizzling run from Holes 12 to 16, mixing three birdies, an eagle at the par-5 No. 16, which offset a bogey at 14. But his momentum ended with a bogey at the 18th.
Second-round co-leader Jeff Schmid of Iowa City, Iowa, struggled to a 76 and is tied for ninth at 210.
The field was trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties Saturday.
The top 35 finishers following Sunday’s final round will earn berths in the 2021 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, to be contested May 25-30, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The 32nd Senior PGA Professional Championship is supported by Golf Channel & John Deere.