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Penner Takes Lead in Sahalee Players Championship


After three rounds of the Sahalee Players Championship (SPC), Kevin Penner leads one of the strongest fields in the history of the amateur event. After rounds of 6-under-par 66 and 3-under-par 69 on a 36-hole Thursday at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., Penner sits at 10-under-par and has a one-shot lead heading into Friday's final round.

Kevin Penner

On Thursday morning Penner, making his fourth appearance in the SPC, shot a bogey-free 66, which tied the tournament's low round. "More than anything, I just stayed out of trouble, hit a lot of fairways and put the ball on the green," he said.

In the afternoon shot a 3-under-par 33 on the front nine, including birdies on Nos. 2, 6 and 8. Then on the inward half, after bogeys on 11 and 16, he closed strong with birdies on the par-3 17th and 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 lives in Las Vegas, but he grew up in Sammamish near 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 named to the 2012 PING Division I All-America Team.

Joining Penner in Friday's final group will be defending champion Chris Williams of Moscow, Idaho. The senior-to-be at the University of Washington and second-ranked amateur in world is a shot back after rounds of even-par 72 and 5-under 67. In the afternoon Williams lit up the scoreboard with seven birdies, tempered only by bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8. Williams has the legitimate chance to become the first multiple winner in SPC history.

Three shots behind and tied for third are first-round leader Tain Lee of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Dimitrios Papadatos of Norah Head, Australia. Lee, who shot rounds of 72 and 70, will join Penner and Williams in the final group.

Papadatos continued his fine play on his first trip to the United States with an impressive 5-under-par 67 in the morning and a 73 in the afternoon. "I really didn't strike the ball all that well," Papadatos said. "My putting is what made the round."

Six shots behind the leader is Beau Hossler, the 17-year-old amateur from Mission Viejo, Calif. who made a splash at the recent U.S. Open. Also in the hunt at 3-under 213 - seven strokes off the pace - is Brett Drewitt of Inverell, Australia, the 2010 Pacific Northwest Men's Amateur champion, Cheng-Tsung Pan, a sophomore-to-be at the University of Washington and the 13th -ranked amateur, 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.

For more information on the Sahalee Players Championship, including final-round pairings and live scoring, visit www.sahaleeplayerschampionship.com.