Birdie at No. 18 Gives Nelson Outright Lead at eGolf Tour’s Grand Harbor Open
By Stewart Moore
Ninety Six, SC – Throughout much of Saturday’s third round of the eGolf Tour’s Grand Harbor Open, Ryan Nelson of Charleston, SC played the hunter, trying his best to chase down leader Seamus Power amidst wet conditions at The Patriot Golf Club. A birdie at the par-5 18th, however, allowed Nelson to reverse roles, in turn leading to a third-round 71, a 15-under total, and a one-shot lead heading into Saturday’s final round – where he will no doubt serve the role of the hunted.
The Grand Harbor Open is the 18th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and is being contested this week at both The Patriot Golf Club at Grand Harbor and The Golf Club at Star Fort in Ninety-Six, SC.
After overnight and morning rain forced a two-hour delay to third-round play, Nelson began Friday’s round tied with Power at 14-under 130 through 36 holes of play, having opened his week with a 67-63 start. Early on, it looked as though Nelson was moving backwards, quickly losing ground to a charging Power.
Bogeys on Nos. 2 and 4 quickly dropped Nelson to 12-under overall and three shots behind Power, who had opened his day with a birdie at the par-4 first to move to 15-under.
At the par-4 sixth, Nelson’s second round came alive. A birdie at the almost drive-able hole gave way to birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 as well, which took him to 1-under on the day – then just one back of Power, who also birdied No. 7 to reach 2-under for the day.
“It was a tough ball-striking day for all of us in the final group,” said Nelson, 34. “I got off to a rough start early on, but those three birdies in a row kind of righted the ship.”
On the back nine, Power birdied the par-5 13th to reach 17-under, at the time two shots ahead of Nelson.
Bogeys by both players at the par-3 15th kept the margin at two shots, as Power fell to 16-under par, while Nelson was at 14-under – where he began the round.
Leading by two with three to play, it was hard to imagine that Power would be trailing Nelson by one at the round’s conclusion, but that is exactly how it played out.
Bogeys on 16 and 17 by Power dropped him to 14-under par, suddenly tied with Nelson, who pared the two arduous holes to remain at 14-under.
At the 18th, Nelson walked away with a closing birdie to grab the outright lead for the first time all day, posting a third-round 71 to finish at 15-under – one shot clear of Seamus Power (72) and eGolf Tour leading money winner Drew Weaver.
“It was a very tough day out there. I couldn’t find a fairway and pretty much had to scramble my way around on a lot of holes,” said Nelson, who soon went to the range to straighten out a crooked driver after the round.
Nelson’s 2012 season has been solid, but pales in comparison to his rookie year of 2011, where he won twice on tour. This year, the Washington state native has 12 made cuts in 15 starts (including this week), but just one top-10 finish – a T9 at the Oldfield Open. The former University of Portland golfer has a workmanlike eight top-25 finishes to his name this year, including four in his last five starts entering the week in Ninety-Six.
“I’m happy I’m in the lead, but there is still a lot of golf to play,” he said. “Even if I don’t birdie 18 to take the outright lead, I’m still in the hunt and would still approach tomorrow’s round the same way. Nothing really changes.”Power, a former East Tennessee State golfer, opened his week in Ninety Six with a career-
best-tying 10-under 62 at The Patriot, then followed it up with a second-round 68 at Star Fort to maintain a share of the lead alongside Nelson heading into Friday’s third round.
Power is in the midst of a breakthrough season on the eGolf Tour. Wins at the River Run Classic in March and the Spring Creek Classic in June, combined with a third-place finish at last week’s Championship at Woodside Plantation, have Power at No. 8 on the tour’s money list with $47,123 in earnings.
Those three finishes, however, are Power’s only top-10s in an up-and-down year on tour in which he has missed six cuts. The inconsistency, he says, is something he has battled throughout his career.
“I’ve always been like that,” said Power earlier in the week. “I’ve been working on some swing changes, and sometimes they take a while to set in.”
Weaver, the tour’s leading money winner with $104,513 in season-long earnings, ended a 10-hole stretch of pars in the third round with a birdie at No. 18 to play his way into Saturday’s final threesome, thanks in part to a 3-under 69.
The 2007 British Amateur champion is looking to get back on track this week, coming off just his third missed cut of the year at Woodside Plantation last week. Prior to that, Weaver had posted two wins and four runner-up finishes during a seven-event stretch running from early May to mid-July.
At the Willow Creek Open in May, Weaver trailed by one shot heading into the final round, and managed to pull out a one-shot victory. At the Southern Open just one month ago, he took a commanding lead into the final round, but had to notch win No. 2 with a birdie on the first playoff hole to defeat Bermuda’s Michael Sims.
Final-round play in the Grand Harbor Open will begin at 7:30 AM on Saturday morning at The Patriot. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.