Justin Lower shot his second 64 in round three of Saturday’s BMW Charity Pro-Am to extend a one-shot lead early in the day at Greer’s Thornblade Club three over Mito Pereira.
Lower opened with an 8-under-64 at The Cliffs Valley, one of two courses used in the annual Korn Ferry Tour event and is now 23 years old. He tied his career low with an 8-under-63 in Round 2 at Thornblade before another sparkling round that included five consecutive birdies from the 12th to open some cushion on Mito Pereira. Lower’s lone bogey made it to third before he quickly bounced back with an eagle in par-5 fifth.
Lower has an excellent chance of breaking the tournament record of 27 under par set in 2018 by Michael Arnaud.
Pereira won last week at the REX Hospital Open in Raleigh, NC, and is looking for a third victory this year that would immediately earn him PGA Tour privileges. Pereira followed rounds 65 and 63 with Saturday’s 66-under-5s and is three under 20. He had five birdies and no bogey in his third round.
Four players tied Lower’s 64 for the low round of the day, including Nick Hardy, who is third in solo under-18. He birdied six of his last eight holes up front to turn 6-under-29 before posting 1-less up back.
South Carolina native Tommy Gainey parried eight straight holes before birdies in a row on a pair of par 5s at No.15 and 16 before a final bogey to shoot at 3 under 68. He is tied for fourth at 17 under with Stuart Macdonald (5 under 66) and Jonathan Hodge (4 under 67).
Only two players with ties to the state made the weekend cup with Wofford graduate Andrew Novak tied for 39th at under 10 after a 1-under 70 and Clemson graduate Billy Kennerly tied for 31st at less than 11 years after a 67.
Here’s a closer look at those tied for fourth or better heading into Sunday’s final round at Thornblade, which will be broadcast live on the Golf Channel from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The winner receives $ 126,000 from the $ 700,000 scholarship.
► Lower – The 32-year-old Akron, Ohio native and Malone University alumnus performed well during his career at Korn Ferry, but was not in contention for the final day since a while. He finished second in solo in 2019 and 2020, third in solo in 2018 and tied for fourth in August 2020. In 15 starts since fourth place, he missed seven cups and his best result was a pair of ties for the 15th, including last week’s stop in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is currently 37th in points with a win that propels him to 17th place with the top 25 at the end of the season, earning him PGA Tour status.
► Pereira – The 26-year-old from Chile and product Texas Tech is looking to become the 11th player in Korn Ferry Tour history to win back-to-back tournaments. If successful, he will become only the 12th player to gain immediate promotion on the PGA Tour “battlefield” for scoring three wins in one season. The last to accomplish this was Dutch Fork and South Carolina alum Wesley Bryan five years ago. Three players – Chris Smith (1997), Nick Flanagan (2007) and Michael Sim (2009) won this event en route to promotion to three wins. Smith’s victory came in the early years of the event when he was called the Nike Upstate Classic and played at the Greenville Verdae Greens.
Pereira is second in the points standings and with $ 460,885. He has already locked his PGA Tour card for next season.
► Hardy – The 25-year-old from Northbrook, Ill., And a 2018 University of Illinois graduate, has twice won the Big Ten Championship and became the player of the year for the 2018 conference. He is aiming for his first victory over Korn Ferry. He has been among the tour’s most consistent players this season with nine top-10s and 18 top-25s in 28 starts with just four cuts missed. He is 15th in both points and with earnings of $ 308,003. Hardy has tied for 25th or better in six of his last seven starts and has finished seventh or better in four of his last six outings.
► Gainey – “Two Gloves” was born in Darlington, lives in Hartsville and is aiming for his fourth Korn Ferry victory in his 135th start and his first since the classic Exuma in the Bahamas in January 2020. The 45-year-old takes the ranks 47th on the earnings list with $ 172,330 and 48th in points and if he finished at least a three-way tie for fourth place he would move up to 37th in points. He totaled just over $ 6.4 million in his 24 years as a professional.
► Macdonald – The 26-year-old Canadian played at Purdue and spent the 2019 season playing professionally in China. He’s only in his second season on the Korn Ferry Tour after missing 16 of 20 cups in 2018 and winning just $ 6,821. His career-best tie for third place last week earned him $ 34,125, which pushed him to 69th on the earnings list with $ 128,484. He is aiming for a fourth top 10 in his last five tournaments.
► Hodge – The 34-year-old Dandridge, Tennessee native is a two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year in Tennessee-Chattanooga. He has just three Top 10 finishes in 86 career Korn Ferry tournaments with his best a second in solo at the News Sentinel Open 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he now resides.