SAMMAMISH, Wash. (July 5, 2012) -- After three rounds of play at the Sahalee Players Championship (SPC), Kevin Penner of Las Vegas, Nev. leads one of the strongest fields in the history of the championship. After rounds of 6-under-par 66 and 3-under-par 69 during today's 36-hole day at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., Penner sits at 10-under-par and holds a one-shot lead heading into tomorrow's final round.
In the second round, Penner, making his fourth appearance in the SPC, shot a bogey-free 66, which tied for low round of the tournament. "More than anything, I just stayed out of trouble, hit a lot of fairways and put the ball on the green." He shot 2-under-par on the front side, then shot a blistering 4-under-par 32 on the back nine.
Between rounds, when asked what his game plan was for the afternoon round, Penner simply said, "More of the same." He delivered on that statement, shooting a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine, including birdies on holes 2, 6 and 8. Then on the back nine, after bogeys on holes 11 and 16, he closed strong with birdies on the par-3 17th and the par-5 18th. "I only hit four drivers this afternoon, and probably will do the same tomorrow," he said.
Penner will be a senior at UNLV and now resides in Las Vegas, but he grew up in Sammamish, Wash., just down the road from Sahalee. "I'd say I've played this course a few hundred times," said Penner. "But it's not enough to know this course. You have to hit the shots, and you can't get lazy." He graduated in 2009 from nearby Eastlake High School, where he twice was the 4A Washington state high school champion (2007, '09) and was named the 2008 Washington Junior Golf Association Player of the Year. He recently earned honorable mention All-American honors at UNLV and was also named to the 2012 PING Division I All-America Team.
Joining Penner in the final group will be one of the strongest amateur golfers in the world, defending champion Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho. The senior-to-be at the University of Washington and 2nd ranked amateur in the R&A World Ranking System is one shot back after rounds of even-par 72 and 5-under-par 67. After a steady morning round, Williams lit up the scoreboard with seven birdies in the afternoon, tempered only by bogeys on holes 7 and 8. Tomorrow, Williams has the opportunity to become the first multiple winner in the championship's history.
Three shots back and tied for third are Tain Lee of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Dimitrios Papadatos of Norah Head, Australia. Lee, the first round leader, will join Penner and Williams in the final group of the day after posting rounds of even-par 72 and 2-under par 70. Lee recently graduated from Claremont McKenna, a small Division III college outside of Los Angeles, where he played four years without the benefit of a golf scholarship. His summer schedule includes the Western Amateur as well as the US Amateur Qualifier.
Papadatos continued his strong play in his first trip to the United States, and affirmed his place in the top-tier field, with an impressive 5-under-par 67 in the morning round, followed by a 1-over-par 73 in the afternoon. He finished day two with a 54-hole total of 7-under-par 209, three shots off the pace set by Penner. "I really didn't strike the ball all that well," he said. "My putting is what made the round." But the Aussie did something right in the morning round, as he blistered the front nine with a 6-under par 30, including an eagle on the par-5 2nd hole and birdies on holes 3, 6, 7 and 9. (Watch this group tee off in this morning’s round.)
Six shots back is Beau Hossler, the young amateur from Mission Viejo, Calif. who made a splash at the recent U.S. Open. Also in the hunt at 3-under-par 213 and seven strokes off the lead is Brett Drewitt of Inverell, Australia, the Pacific Northwest Men's Amateur champion in 2010, as well as Cheng-Tsung Pan, the sophomore-to-be at the University of Washington and the 13th ranked amateur in the R&A World Ranking System, and Ben Geyer of Arbuckle, Calif.
Past champions of the SPC include Casey Martin, Peter Uihlein, Nick Taylor, Daniel Summerhays, Kyle Stanley, Ryan Moore, Arron Oberholser and Jason Gore, among others. More than a dozen golfers who have competed in the SPC have wound up on the PGA Tour.
When asked about the championship, Tournament Director, Mike Jonson said, "The Sahalee Players Championship provides the Northwest with the opportunity each year to witness the performance of some of the world's finest amateur players."