August 24, 2013, Morrisburg, ON (ISN) – Laguna Niguel, California’s Sean Shahi shot a third round 66 at Upper Canada Golf Course Saturday to take a one stroke lead heading into the final round of The Great Waterway Classic.
(Bold denotes Canadian)
1. Sean Shahi – 66 (-18)
2. Hugo Leon – 67 (-17)
3. Chris Epperson – 68 (-15)
T-4. Tony Finau – 67 (-14)
T-4. Ryan Blaum – 70 (-14)
T-6. Darren Wallace – 65 (-13)
T-6. Steven Lecuyer – 68 (-13)
T-6. Joe Panzeri – 70 (-13)
Shahi carded his second straight bogey-free round to finish 18-under par through 54 holes and led by one shot over Santiago, Chile’s Hugo Leon and by three over Hilton Head Island, South Carolina’s Chris Epperson.
“Starting today’s round, I actually felt a little bit of that heartbeat pressure,” said Shahi. “Usually I don’t feel that, it’s more of a ‘worrying about how I play’ pressure. But I have some things that I’m saying to myself in the middle of the round to make me smile and my caddy’s helping me out too.”
The 27-year old rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the 18th hole to secure the 54-hole lead, his first ever on PGA TOUR Canada. Shahi credited a lighthearted mental approach for his success so far this week and said he hopes the same mentality will carry him to victory tomorrow.
“I’m sure there’s going to be another crowd out, which is fun to see and cool to experience, but I just have to enjoy it and feel like I’m playing back at home with the boys,” said Shahi. “If it happens it happens, and if it doesn’t I’ll just try to take it to the next week and go from there.”
One shot behind Shahi was Leon, who finished his second round Saturday morning with six birdies in eight holes, then shot a third round 67 that included a birdie at the 18th hole to sit 17-under. Epperson also carded a birdie at the last to post 68 and a 15-under par total.
A shot behind Epperson at 14-under were Salt Lake City, Utah’s Tony Finau and Champions Gate, Florida’s Ryan Blaum. Langley, British Columbia’s Darren Wallace, Edmonton, Alberta’s Steven Lecuyer and Meridian, Idaho’s Joe Panzeri, the winner two weeks ago at the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS, where tied for sixth at 13-under.
The second round resumed at 7:30 AM Saturday morning after play was halted due to darkness Friday evening, with the third round beginning at 12:30 PM. Shahi and Leon will play in Sunday’s final group, teeing off at 1:20 PM
Leon feels a breakthrough coming
Finally healthy from a nagging hip injury that hampered him all winter, Hugo Leon said Saturday’s excellent play – he was 11-under par for the 28 holes he played over the second and third rounds – was a sign of momentum he’s been feeling for weeks now.
“I’m really excited about how things are right now,” said Leon. “I’ve been feeling that my game is coming along very well. I’m hitting shots on a day-to-day basis that I don’t think I’ve hit before quality-wise. I’m very happy.”
The 28-year old expressed the same excitement after a season-best tie for eighth at The Players Cup in Winnipeg, and following a missed cut at the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS, said he feels he’s back on track.
“I was a little disappointed with Calgary,” said Leon. “I feel really good coming in and I don’t know what happened. I guess I was too excited. But I didn’t let that discourage me, and this week has been really good.”
Epperson getting the hang of being in contention
No matter where’s he’s played golf over the past year, there has been one common denominator for Chris Epperson: he’s been in contention.
With three top-10s on PGA TOUR Canada, seven top-10s on the eGolf Tour and a win at the Vancouver Open on the Vancouver Golf Tour in 2013, the 31-year old said he’s getting the hang of getting in contention in his eighth season as a professional.
“I think it’s a huge learning experience. I turned pro in ’06 and thought I knew was going on, but turns out I didn’t know squat,” said Epperson. “Every year I’ve learned so much more. You know what the term patience means, but you don’t know what it means in golf. And that’s something that I’ve learned in the past two years.”
Epperson carded a 68 Saturday to get in the hunt, three shots behind Shahi heading into the final round. With a career-best tie for second at the ATB Financial Classic presented by TELUS in his last start, the Armstrong Atlantic State grad said he likes his chances for tomorrow.
“I’ve had three good rounds this week, and I’m due for four. I think if I could pull off another good round I think I’ve got a chance,” said Epperson. “I don’t have to sleep on a lead and I like coming from behind. I’ve got nothing to lose.”
– Weather: Sunny, 20 degrees Celsius, wind 5 km/h
– Shahi is looking to become just the second 54-hole leader to win on PGA TOUR Canada this season, with Joe Panzeri becoming the first two weeks ago in Calgary
– Seven players have shot in the 60s all three rounds: Sean Shahi, Hugo Leon, Chris Epperson, Tony Finau, Steven Lecuyer, Josh Anderson and Mark Hubbard
– The cut was made Saturday morning at 3-under par, with 56 players making it to the weekend. Playing in the final group of the day off the back nine, Rafa Campos birdied two of his final three holes to push the cut from 2-under par to 3-under, sending 15 players home for the weekend
– Just three players have made the cut in all six events this year: Tyler Aldridge, Brady Schnell and Joe Panzeri