Harnden leads Dayton qualifier | NevadaAppeal.com

Harnden leads Dayton qualifier

by Charles Whisnand
Appeal Sports Editor

It beats working for a living. Or at least selling life insurance.

Brandon Harnden is enjoying pursuing his pro golf career again and it showed on Thursday at the First Stage of PGA Qualifying at Dayton Valley Golf Club. Harnden shot three eagles – on a hole-in-one on the 16th hole – on his way to maintaining his lead after the third round.

For the second straight day, Harnden shot a 67 which was also the low score for the second straight day. Harnden has a three-round total of 16-under 200.

Harnden temporarily gave up his pursuit of a golf career to sell life insurance, but stopped this year to begin playing on the Gateway Tour.

“I felt like I’m a better golfer than a life insurance salesman,” Harnden said. “I’m not that good of a life insurance salesman. Now I’m back and I’m happy to be back, too.”

Harnden graduated from Oregon in 2002 where he played with Carson High graduate T.J. Duncan. “T.J.’s a good friend of mine,” Harnden said.

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This is his fourth trip to the first stage of qualifying. He made it through the first stage his first two times, but his third time in the first stage of qualifying wasn’t a pleasant one.

It was his first trip to Dayton and it was during a year in which the weather was brutal. Harnden missed advancing to the second stage by one stroke. “It was nasty,” Harnden said. “I never played in that kind of crap before.”

But Harnden has enjoyed the relatively benign conditions at Dayton this week. “I like the golf course,” he said.

“The course here is in great shape. The weather isn’t always like that here I figured.”

Harnden used a 6-iron through a 15-mile an hour cross wind to hit his ace on No. 16. On the par-four 14th, he used a pitching wedge from 130 yards to put his second shot into the hole for an eagle. He also eagled the par-5 third hole.

Like many of the golfers, Harnden was brought down to earth a little bit on his final hole, the 18th, which featured a difficult pin placement just in front of the water.

“I hit it into the water,” Harnden said. But Harnden recovered nicely, chipping to within one foot of the hole, enabling him to save bogey.

Harnden described the rock solid greens at Dayton as “sweet. Firm and fast. They’re quick. It makes it fun.”

Harnden said he’s been driving and putting well. “You hit a lot of fairways out here, you’re going to do well,” he said.

Of course, it helps when a player doesn’t have to putt by hitting aces and eagles. “Sometimes I didn’t have to putt,” Harnden said. “That’s the best part about it.”

Much of the credit for his success this week goes to his caddie, Colin Powell, Harnden said.

“I’ve got a great caddie,” he said. “My caddie’s helped me a lot. I hit the ball well.”

His approach obviously won’t change in today’s final round. “Just do the same thing I’ve been doing all three days,” he said.

Galena High graduate Travis Whisman continued his solid play and stayed in a tie for sixth after firing a 70 for a total of 207. Two other golfers equaled the low score of 67 on Thursday, Korey Mahoney of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Denver’s Matthew Zions.

Zions’ 67 gave him a total of 204 while Mahoney’s 67 placed him in contention to move on. The top 27 players plus ties will advance to the second stage and the cutoff point to move on after Thursday was 212.

After struggling to a 72 and 74 in his first two rounds, Mahoney’s 67 put him at 213. Also at 213 is Spencer Levin, who made a run for the U.S. Open a couple of years ago as an amateur. After struggling to a 72 and 73, Levin’s 68 put him back in contention.

They are among many players who are on the bubble as far as moving on. One player who finds himself on the bubble after looking safe to move on is Nate Whitson. After a 68 and a 69, Whitson shot a 76 on Thursday and finds himself at 212.

Sacramento’s Scott Gordon, who looked like a candidate to be on the bubble after the first round, now looks like he’ll safely move. After shooting a 73, Gordon has come back to fire 66-68 to put him at 207.

Former University of Nevada golfer Carlos Concha will be hard pressed to move on. He fired a 72 for a three-round total of 217.