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It’s Saturday at the Senior PGA Professional Championship and it’s “only” the 54-hole mark, but it seemed a little more at stake than usual.
There’s Rob Labritz, who took a one-shot lead on the 18th hole with a birdie on 202. He is playing in this championship for the first time after turning 50 in late May.
Labritz’s late birdie topped off a 6-under 66 and provided a one-shot cushion over a daunting leaderboard.
Mark Mielke, a freelance PGA teaching professional from Atlantis, Florida, is in second place. In the penultimate group, Mielke (68-68-67, 203) played a 67 in the third round, which was good for a bit of an advantage, that is, until Labritz did his magic on the last hole.
“I had 129 yards in, 135 with the wind,” said Labritz, the PGA director of golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, New York, of his approach to the 18th hole of the Wanamaker. “That set me up for a wedge that I hit two and a half feet and made the putt.”
Mike Small, the chief golf coach at the University of Illinois, and Paul Claxton, a PGA Life member from Claxton, Georgia, are two back.
Claxton (68-69-67, 204) hit 15 birdies and 16 eagles to move within a shot of the leaders, which included Small for a brief moment. That is, until Small Bogeyed 18, a group in front of Labritz.
Alan Morin, the second-lap leader, is alone in fifth place, just three behind the pace. He posted a 1-under, 71 on Saturday.
The winds that defended the PGA Golf Club on Friday weren’t as strong on Saturday, so conditions were ripe to score on the normally challenging Wanamaker layout.
The top five players on the leaderboard – Labritz, Mielke, Small, Claxton and Morin – combined only five bogeys in the third round, with Labritz and Mielke creating bogey-free rounds.
Mielke turned on the turn with birdies to 7, 8 and 9. His inner 9 started with a pair of pars, then his lead reached three after another birdie on the 12th. He parried the last 6 holes and seemed destined for the lead or at least one Piece of it.
When Mielke suddenly had three shots clean, Small responded with his own birdie on 12, then three more on 13, 15 and 17 to secure the lead. As a three-time PGA Professional Champion, Small has never won the Senior PGA Professional Championship. With a trio of 68ers and a total of 204 over three days, he will have the opportunity to tick this box on Sunday.
Labritz started the weekend two behind after scoring laps of 69 (Ryder) and 67 (Wanamaker) on Thursday and Friday. His 66 on Saturday met Mike Genovese for the championship low round on the Wanamaker Course, where he did the most damage on the par 5s (three birdies).
“When you see names like Mielke, Small and Claxton, you know they are a talented and jam-packed leaderboard,” Labritz said. “Tomorrow will be a challenge. That one shot can mean a lot. If I play like today and hit a few fairways, greens and putts, I’ll be in a good position. But at the moment (tonight) I am satisfied with this round and I am happy to be here. ”
After the third round, a second and final cut was made, as the 70 points and 78 ties in total came into play on Sunday.
The final round starts on Sunday morning for the second time in a row on the Wanamaker Course.
In addition to the Leo Fraser Trophy, named after the 16th President of the PGA of America, players will compete for prize money of $ 318,000, including the winner’s share of $ 26,000.
The 35 point scorers also grab a seat for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship 2022 at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Benton Harbor, Michigan, May 26-29.
The five best finishers of the Senior PGA Professional Championship will also receive an exception for the finals of the PGA Tour Champions Qualifying School 2021 – Final Stage.
Those who finish in the top eight, including ties, will automatically qualify for next year’s championship at Twin Warriors Golf Club at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa and Santa Ana Golf Club, both in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, dated October 13-16. 2022.
PGA Golf Club, the PGA of America’s premier 54-hole course, hosts several PGA membership championships annually, including the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship, the Senior PGA Professional Championship (biennially), and the PGA’s Tournament Series and Winter Championships.