By Brad Ziemer
KELOWNA — Kimberley’s Jared du Toit set the tone with an early-morning 10-under 61, but there were many more birdies and eagles to come during the remainder of Saturday’s third round of the GolfBC Championship.
It was like Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club was under siege by some of the world’s top young professionals, who were taking dead aim at the pins on a day that offered near-perfect scoring conditions.
When the day was done, Alabama’s Robby Shelton again had the lead with a score of 17-under par. It is likely going to take north of 20-under to win the $175,000 Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event.
Du Toit, out as a single to start the day after birdieing his final hole Friday night to make the cut, made nine birdies and an eagle to vault himself into contention and set a course record at Gallagher’s. Du Toit had a share of the lead at 11-under when he completed his round in just under three hours. But the leaders had not even started their rounds when du Toit finished his and many of them also had their way with Gallagher’s Canyon.
Shelton has now led after all three rounds. He shot a six-under 65 Saturday to move to 17-under par and has a three-shot lead on Adam Webb of Roanoke, Va.
Shelton will attempt to become the first Mackenzie Tour player in three years to hold the outright lead in an event from start to finish. Joel Dahmen, now on the PGA Tour, was the last to do it back in the summer of 2014 at a tournament in Fort McMurray, Alta. You have to like Shelton’s chances. The 22-year-old has played almost perfect golf this week at Gallagher’s Canyon.
“I just like the course,” Shelton said. “I am striking it really well. I made a few putts on the front nine to keep the momentum going and then it was an easy back nine for me. I just cruised, I hit fairways and everything is just working out.
“The course fits my eye really nice. I don’t have to hit many drivers, it is a bunch of two-irons and I am hitting my two-iron well. If you hit fairways you are going to have a lot of wedges and short irons. I am throwing darts and it is nice to see.”
After carrying his own bag the first two days, Shelton had Gallagher’s Canyon club champion Dwayne Henry as his caddie on Saturday. “He was great,” Shelton said of Henry. “He definitely helped me with some reads. It is pretty cool to have the club champion on the bag.”
Webb matched Shelton’s 65 to grab solo second at 14-under. Johnny Ruiz of Camarillo, Calif., Cody Blick of Alamo, Calif., and Jake Knapp of Costa Mesa, Calif., are tied for third at 13-under.
For a while it looked like Ruiz might threaten du Toit’s course record set Saturday morning. He had it to nine-under through 12 holes and acknowledged he started having those ‘how-low-can-I-go’ thoughts racing through his head.
“Yeah, I did,” Ruiz said. “I was just trying to keep breathing, though. I have been working on breathing techniques and I really put them into play today. It creeps in your head when you get that low, especially after 12 holes. But I made a bogey on the next hole so that kind of put me down to earth.” Ruiz, who eagled all three of the par 5s on Saturday, settled for a seven-under 64.
West Vancouver’s Seann Harlingten is the low Canadian heading into Sunday’s final round. Harlingten fired his third straight 67 and sits at 12-under and tied for sixth. “Time for a better one tomorrow.” Harlingten said. “I just have to get off to a hot start tomorrow and see how it goes.”
Du Toit’s early-morning 61 had moved him into a tie for first, but when the day ended his 11-under total left him tied for ninth place.
CHIP SHOTS: The final group will tee off at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Play begins at about 7 a.m. . .Sunday’s winner will earn $31,500. The low Canadian will receive a $2,500 bonus from Freedom 55 Financial.