BY BRAD ZIEMER
KELOWNA — A British Columbia winner for the inaugural GolfBC Championship? That sounds just fine to Ryan Williams.
Tournament organizers probably wouldn’t mind that one bit, either. The fact that Williams, a 35-year-old Vancouver native, and Victoria’s Cory Renfrew are in the thick of things should help draw a crowd to Sunday’s final round of the $175,000 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event.
They were swinging in the rain again Saturday at Gallagher’s Canyon and that didn’t seem to bother Williams one bit. He fired a six-under 65 to move to 16-under par and had a share of the lead as he walked off the 18th green. But as Williams was signing his scorecard there was a huge roar from the 18th green as Dan McCarthy holed his approach shot for an eagle to get to 18-under.
“Well, at least I don’t have to sleep on the lead,” deadpanned Williams.
To win on Sunday, Williams will have to overtake McCarthy, who has been the tour’s hottest player this year. The 30-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., pro won the season-opening event in Vancouver and tied for sixth last week in Victoria. He has been under par in all 11 Mackenzie Tour rounds he has played this year and 10 those rounds have been in the 60s.
On Saturday, McCarthy fired a tidy eight-under 63 that was highlighted by that eagle from 103 yards on No. 18.
“That was an unbelievable finish, certainly,” McCarthy said. “It was a good number (yardage) but you never expect to jar one.”
McCarthy said he is just trying to ride the wave he is on.
“I don’t know what it is,” he said. “I am just very patient out there. My objective is just to put it on the fairway and put it on the green and try to make a putt. I am just keeping it really simple and swinging well.”
So is Williams, who won the 2014 Mackenzie Tour Championship and would dearly love to win so close to home.
“It is a good position I have put myself in for tomorrow,” Williams said. “I feel like it is definitely a home game for me. I have got a lot of friends and family here following me and a lot of locals, too. I am definitely feeling the support and it would be great to get a W. But there is a lot of work to do yet.”
To do that, Williams will likely have to go low again on Sunday. He has shot 66, 66 and 65 in his opening three rounds at Gallagher’s Canyon.
“This course seems to suit my eye,” he said. “I have been hitting a ton of fairways and a ton of greens and I have been putting really well. I am making a lot of momentum putts and I have been pretty streaky. I have been following up a lot of birdies with birdies. I feel good on this golf course and like I said, it is a bit of a home game for me and I am feeding off the crowd.”
The weather — unseasonably cool and rainy — has also made Williams feel at home.
“For whatever reason, I seem to play my best golf in cool and damp conditions like this. Maybe I just feel comfortable in that. I have had a lot of practice playing in it at home.”
This is also a home game of sorts for Renfrew, who shot a six-under 65 to move to 12-under. He enters the final round alone in fifth spot.
Renfrew made five of his six birdies on the front nine.
““Looking ahead at the top of the leaderboard, the guys were several shots ahead, so I knew I had to start well and keep that momentum going,” Renfrew said. “I fed off the players in the group. We all shot six and five-under, so it was pretty easy to keep up with them and go from there.”
South Carolina’s Caleb Sturgeon is alone in third at 15-under after a 69 on Saturday.
Saturday’s third round was played after 29 players finished their second rounds in the morning. The 36-hole cut came at three-under par.
Langley’s Adam Cornelson, last week’s winner in Victoria, and Seann Harlingten of West Vancouver were the other British Columbians to make the cut. Harlingten shot a 66 Saturday to move to eight-under and is tied for 16th.
Cornelson shot a 68 and is tied for 25th at seven-under.
Sunday’s winner earns $31,500. Play begins at 7:45 a.m., with the leaders teeing off at 12:15 p.m.