For those ready to hand over the 19th Sahalee Players Championship trophy to University of Washington superstar Chris Williams – and he is near the lead entering the final round – one very good college golfer might have equal motivation.
UNLV senior-to-be Kevin Penner is no slouch. He grew up right down the road in Sammamish, and has played Sahalee Country Club hundreds of times since it was his home course at Eastlake High School.
Penner is in position to wrap up what would be his biggest tournament victory to date. After two rounds in the 60s Thursday – a 6-under-par 66 and a 69 – he leads at 10-under 206.
Lurking one shot behind is Williams at 207. The defending champion rallied in the third round Thursday afternoon for a 67.
They will be together in the final group for the final round today.
“It will be fun to play with him for the first time,” Penner said. “On the other hand, I am the one who is trying to defend in a way, because it is sort of a home course for me.”
His play is no fluke. Penner has been a good player for a long time – without some of the headlines his peers receive.
He won two Class 4A state boys titles at Eastlake, has won three collegiate tournaments at UNLV and has steadily improved his finishes at the Sahalee event – finishing tied for 38th in 2009, tied for 23rd in 2010 (when it was held at The Home Course) and tied for fourth last year.
In fact, his 68 in the final round last year was the best score of the day.
“I’ve played this course so many times,” Penner said, “I know where to be, and not to be.”
Penner’s experience shows. His five bogeys are fewest in the field. He went a stretch of 31 holes without a bogey.
He birdied the 17th and 18th holes of his third round to grab the outright lead.