Eyeing First Tour Title, Burke Soars Into Bolle Classic Lead With Third-Round 65
By Stewart Moore
Lexington, NC – The feeling amongst players on the eGolf Tour is that Canadian Cam Burke is due to win sooner rather than later on the country’s No. 3 developmental tour. A vast array of low rounds posted throughout the year has led many to believe that the two-time Canadian Amateur champion has the game to run and hide from players in any tournament, at any time.
That time may in fact be at this week’s Bolle Classic, where the New Hamburg, Ontario native has posted rounds of 70-64-65—199 to grab a two-shot lead heading into Saturday’s final round of the 72-hole event.
The Bolle Classic is the 12th event of the 2011 eGolf Tour season and is being contested this week at both Sapona Country Club in Lexington, NC and Colonial Country Club in Thomasville, NC.
Burke entered Friday’s round on the heels of a 70-64—134 (7-under) start to his week, trailing overnight leader Drew Weaver by five shots. With a somewhat docile Sapona Country Club course lying in wait, Burke took full advantage of early opportunities to move up the day three leaderboard.
Birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 quickly took the former Eastern Michigan University star to 2-under for the day and 9-under overall, but a bogey at the par-3 third pushed him back to 8-under, and may have helped to re-set his focus.
“I got off to a good start with the birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, but then missed a short par putt at the third,” said Burke, 25. “After that, I just had to keep grinding. If you stay patient on this course, you can make back some lost shots pretty quickly.”
Birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 allowed Burke to turn at 3-under 32 and 10-under par for the week.
On the closing nine at the Ellis Maples-designed Sapona course, he overcame a sluggish start to finish in torrid fashion with birdies on 15, 16 and 18 to polish off a third-round 65. The late push moved Burke out of a logjam atop the leaderboard, and into sole possession of the 54-hole lead at 13-under 199.
“I’m not hitting it terribly close this week, but I’ve been able to take advantage of the par-5s for the most part,” said Burke, who birdied all three par-5s in the third round. “There are some holes out there that can bite you, so you really have to plot your way around.”
The 65 on Friday afternoon marked the sixth time that Burke has posted a round of 65 or better on the 2012 eGolf Tour. Ironically, however, it marked the first time that he had broken 70 in the third round of one of the tour’s 72-hole events this year. With three top-6 finishes under his belt already this season, the talented Burke feels as though he’s ready to break through for his first career win.
“I know I’m good enough,” he said. “Obviously we’ll find out tomorrow if I’m ready to do it. There are a lot of good players out here, so it won’t be easy.”
Burke entered the week in Lexington, NC struggling with his game somewhat, having not posted a top-10 since a T4 at the Forest Oaks Classic in April. Four made cuts since, but just one top-25, left Burke searching for answers – mainly, on the putting green.
“I made a putting change this week, going cross-handed for the first time in my life,” he said. “It feels great. The last month or so, I’ve hit the ball very well, but I haven’t been able to get it in the hole. Something had to change, and so far this seems to be working well.”
If the putter continues to work well for Burke in Saturday’s final round, there’s a chance he could very well run and hide from the field. One look at the competitors directly behind him, however, paints a clear picture of just how tough that might be.
Chris Epperson of Hilton Head Island, SC, Stefan Wiedergruen of Germany, Peter Malnati of Dandridge, TN, Drew Weaver of High Point, NC and Clint Jensen of Jupiter, FL are all tied for second, two shots behind Burke at 11-under 201.
Epperson, at No. 6, the highest-ranked player on the tour’s money list without a win, tied Burke for the day’s low round with a 6-under 65 to move from T18 to T2.
Epperson, who has two top-3 finishes on tour this year and is 10-for-10 in cuts made, played flawless golf on Friday, posting four birdies and an eagle en route to his 6-under effort. Birdies on Nos. 5 through 7 gave way to a seven-hole stretch of pars for Epperson, but a strong finish featuring an eagle on 15 and a birdie on 18 pushed him to 11-under for the week.
Wiedergruen, a native of Waiblingen, Germany, carded a bogey-free 66 on Friday for his third straight round in the 60s on the week. On Wednesday at Colonial Country Club, the former UNC Charlotte star bogeyed two of his first six holes, but rallied to post a first-round 67. Wiedergruen has yet to make another bogey since that start, playing 48 bogey-free holes since.
The former college standout is two weeks removed from a career-best finish at the tour’s HGM Hotels Classic at Rock Barn, where rounds of 65-69-72-69—275 gave him a solo-third-place finish.
Malnati, a former University of Missouri golfer, posted a third-round 66 on Friday to move to 11-under on the week, following opening rounds of 65-70.
The Tennessee native is in the midst of his best season to date, with a T2 and a third-place finish in nine starts thus far on the year. At the Championship at St. James Plantation in April, Malnati opened with rounds of 63-76-70 to grab a one-shot lead heading into the final round, but finished with an even-par round of 72 to notch a career-best T2 finish. He is currently 16th on the tour’s money list with earnings of $26,787.
Weaver, the tournament’s 36-hole leader after rounds of 65-64—129, birdied two of his first three holes in the third round to stretch his tally to 14-under, but immediately bogeyed Nos. 4 and 5 to drop back to even-par for the day. Bogeys at Nos. 9 and 13 followed, and when Weaver arrived at the green of the par-5 18th, the look on his face said it all when he watched in disbelief as a 4-foot birdie putt lipped out. The ensuing 72 put the former Virginia Tech star two shots behind Burke, but it did little to slow the strong momentum Weaver has built over the past six weeks.
Over his last 18 rounds on the eGolf Tour – a stretch dating back to the start of the Columbia Open in May – Weaver is now a cumulative 66-under par. During that stretch, the 2007 British Amateur champion has notched a win and two runner-up finishes to move to No. 2 on the tour’s money list with earnings of $55,161.
That stretch of golf, in and of itself, resurrected a slow start to Weaver’s 2012 eGolf Tour campaign. Missed cuts in his first two starts of the year gave way to a T5 finish at the Pine Needles Classic in March, but Weaver wouldn’t post another top-10 until a T2 effort at the Columbia Open in May, where he fell one shot shy of winner Jack Fields.
The runner-up in Columbia led into Weaver’s second career win two weeks later at the Willow Creek Open, contested on his home course (Willow Creek Country Club) in High Point, NC. A final-round 76 at the River Hills Classic the next week left Weaver with a T8 finish, but the current Sea Island (GA) resident bounced back at the following event with a playoff loss to Matt Harmon at the tour’s HGM Hotels Classic at Rock Barn.
The final member of the quintet of players tied for second is Jensen, a three-time winner on the eGolf Tour. Playing alongside Weaver in Friday’s final threesome, Jensen offset a birdie at the par-5 first with a double-bogey on No. 2 and a bogey on No. 3 to quickly plummet down the leaderboard at 2-over par. A birdie at the tough par-4 11th put him back to 1-over for the round, but a roller-coaster-like finish of bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie over his closing five holes left him with a 71 for the day.
The 37-year-old Jensen, who claimed his third win at this year’s Forest Oaks Classic, is again in familiar territory at the Bolle Classic. At the event’s 2011 edition, Jensen posted rounds of 66-65-64—195 to take a one-shot lead into the final round, but fell victim to a closing 63 by winner Corey Nagy. A closing 69 on day four left Jensen three shots shy of Nagy, who finished the week off with a 62 and a 63 to claim the second of three 2011 titles.
Final-round play in the Bolle Classic will begin at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning with players competing in threesomes off of Nos. 1 and 10 at Sapona Country Club. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.