PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) — Gene Fieger shot a 3-under 69 in windy conditions Thursday to take a four-stroke lead in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
The 53-year-old Fieger, the PGA director of golf at Hideout Golf Club in Naples, Fla., had a 10-under 206 total at PGA Golf Club in the event postponed in October in Virginia because of rain and flooding. The top 35 after the final round Friday will earn spots in the Senior PGA Championship on May 22-25 at Harbor Shores in Michigan.
“I like playing on Bermuda grass and feel that it’s an advantage for me,” said Fieger, who three-putted the par-4 ninth hole for his lone bogey. “Except for the ninth hole, I was very happy with the round. I have driven the ball well and chipped pretty well, too. That’s what you have to do out here on this course and in this weather.”
Steve Parker and Frank Esposito were tied for second.
Parker, a 56-year-old PGA Life Member from Houston, shot a 67 – the best round of the day and his lowest career scores on the Wanamaker Course. He had seven birdies and two bogeys.
“We do play in wind there and we learn how to control the ball,” Parker said about Texas. “You work on it at the range and you have to trust yourself. I have trouble with a left-right wind just like everybody else, unless you’re a left-hander. It’s been a different wind every day, but the greens were a little softer today.”
Esposito, the 50-year-old PGA head pro at Brooklake in Florham Park, N.J., had a 74.
“I played real solid today, but I just putted lousy,” Esposito said. “I hit a couple bad shots, but everybody always does. I need to hit some quality shots tomorrow and, hopefully, make a few putts.”
Don Berry was five strokes back at 5 under. The 53-year-old Berry is the PGA head professional at Edinburgh USA in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Stan Cooke, the first-round leader who has tied for the top spot with Esposito after the second round, had an 80 to fall 10 strokes back. The 53-year-old Cooke is the PGA general manager and director of golf at Ocala (Fla.) National.