Joe Highsmith of Lakewood, Wash. shot 3-under-par 69 in today’s third round to maintain his lead at the 25th Sahalee Players Championship.
The former PNGA and WSGA Player of the Year is the only player in the elite field of 64 international amateur players to shoot all three of the first rounds under par.
The championship, being held at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., will conduct the fourth and final round tomorrow, July 3, with the first tee times at 8:00am. The leaders will tee off at 9:40am.
Highsmith, with a three-day total of 9-under par, threatened to run away from the field, but the Pepperdine University freshman saw his close friend and Pepperdine teammate Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills, Calif. make a charge of his own. Paired together in today’s third round, Theegala birdied his final four holes of the day to pull within two shots of Highsmith.
The two players matched shot for shot coming down the stretch, reaching a crescendo on the Par 3 17th when both of the Pepperdine standouts stuffed their approach shots to within five feet. After Highsmith rolled in his birdie putt, Theegala – the 2017 Sahalee Players Championship winner – countered with one of his own. The teammates would again match birdies on the par 5-18th to cap a third round that left the pair the only two under par as Monday’s sun was replaced with cool temperatures and intermittent showers that softened a course that pummeled many players during the opening two rounds.
“I just figured we’d go out and have a good time,” Theegala said. “We rolled off of each other, and figured we’d get something going at some point, and we had a good day.”
Said Highsmith, “If the weather conditions stay cool and damp tomorrow, I know I’m going to have to continue to be aggressive on the course.”
The two are close to turning this into a two-man race. There are six players tied for third place, a full eight shots behind Theegala, and 10 shots back of Highsmith.
In tomorrow’s final round, it will be an all-Pepperdine final group, as Highsmith and Theegala will be joined by Pepperdine teammate Derek Hitchner, who climbed the leaderboard with a sterling 5-under par 67 that included back to back birdies on holes 17 and 18. Hitchner is tied for third place at 1-over for the championship with a star-studded lineup of top amateur talent including last year’s champion Cole Madey of West Linn, Ore.; Canadian National Team member Chris Crisologo; Auburn senior Jacob Solomon; Arizona State star Mason Andersen; and Oregon State standout Spencer Tibbits, who gained national attention this summer after qualifying for the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
The Sahalee Players Championship is free and open to the public. Free parking is available.