Broce leads, Paolozzi earns spot in final round of PGA

pga-paolozziJamie Broce thought his chances of playing in the 47th PGA Professional National Championship were over last summer. He lost a five-hole playoff in the Northern Ohio PGA Championship to Karen Paolozzi, who became the third woman to advance to the National Championship.

But, instead of watching the action back home, Broce now finds himself in the spotlight in the showcase event for PGA Professionals. The University of Toledo men’s golf coach shot 1-under-par 71 in the third round to take a three-stroke lead into Wednesday’s final round.

Broce (“Brose”) collected three birdies to offset two bogeys for a 54-hole total of 5-under-par 211. Broce, 37, holds the lead over Michael Block of Aliso Viejo, California, who had a 72 in the third round.

Paolozzi also is among the 77 players surviving the 54-hole cut, thus making her the second woman professional to play in the Championship’s final round.

Broce was the first alternate from the Northern Ohio PGA Section and gained his berth prior to the Championship. In two rounds on The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, he’s found the formula to success by playing the par-5s in 4-under par.

“It was a long day and I didn’t have a lot of rhythm,” said Broce, who missed the cut last year in his only previous Championship appearance. “I hit some loose iron shots today, but made up for it by getting everything up and down. I’m absolutely happy with how I played.

“I don’t know what tomorrow will bring or necessarily what a good score will be, depending on the wind and the conditions. But hopefully, whatever they may be, I will just go out and execute.”

Block, PGA head professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, California, had a pair of birdies and bogeys in the third round to pull within striking distance of Broce.

Dave McNabb of Newark, Delaware, shot 70, and is tied at 1-under-par 215 with David Hronek of North Port, Florida, who had a 72, and Ryan Helminen of Menasha, Wisconsin, who shot 74.

The National Championship, featuring a 550,000 purse, is presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA.

The third round became a marathon day for the field after play was suspended Tuesday morning for 80 minutes due to a passing series of thundershowers. Only seven players shot below par for the round and just five are under par going into the final round of the Championship.

A total of 77 players made the 54-hole cut of 9-over-par 225, and advanced to Wednesday’s final round.

The low 20 scorers in the PGA Professional National Championship will advance to the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky.

While the leaders were battling to finish before dark, four-time Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Georgia, posted a 68, for the day’s biggest move. Skinner jumped 74 spots to land at 1-over-par 217, in a tie for ninth.

“I was thinking last night what it would take to have a chance to get back in the hunt and get into the top 20,” said Skinner. “I planted the seed in the back of my mind that I needed to get into the 60s to have a chance. I went out and putted well and hit it solid.”

Skinner said the key to his round was making birdie on No. 5, a 216-yard par-3. He hit a 21-degree hybrid to six feet and made the putt.

“It was my best shot of the week,” he said.

Paolozzi, who had played brilliantly on the back nine Monday, struggled to a 3-over-par closing stretch for a 78. She found the cushion needed to make the 54-hole cut with a birdie at 17, before a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole. Paolozzi joins Suzy Whaley of Farmington, Connecticut, as the only women PGA members to enter the final round in the Championship history. Whaley tied for 64th in 2005 at The Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

“The 54-hole cut was definitely on my mind today. I didn’t really hit the ball all that well,” said Paolozzi, who last spring became the PGA assistant professional at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. “I was really grinding and trying to hold on as hard as I could. It was really nice to get that birdie on No. 17 and know I was still in the Championship. I hit a nice shot in there. It felt good to know that I can still do it under pressure. I’m thrilled to still be here.”

Paolozzi will not be eligible to join Wednesday’s low 20 scorers for a trip to the 96th PGA Championship because she did not play the men’s distances last fall in the Northern Ohio PGA Section Championship.

Four PGA Professional National Champions made the 54-hole cut, led by Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, whose 70 moved him to a tie for ninth at 217. Defending Champion Rod Perry of Port Orange, Florida, was at 218; while three-time Champion Mike Small of Champaign, Illinois, and Steve Schneiter of Sandy, Utah, were at 222.

Photo by Montana Pritchard, PGA

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