BLUFFTON, S.C. — Danny Balin continues to know the key to success at the PGA Professional Championship.
Balin, 37, of Irvington, N.Y., shot an even-par 72 on Tuesday to manage a share of the 54-hole lead at the 52nd PGA Professional Championship at Belfair. With a three-round total of 7-under 208, he and Alex Beach of Stamford, Conn., who had a third-round 73, have pulled away from the field.
After the co-leaders, there’s a gap of five strokes back to a pair of Texans, Stuart Deane of Arlington and Matt Lohmeyer of Fort Worth, in third.
After Wednesday’s final round, the top 20 finishers earn places in the field at the PGA Championship in two weeks at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale, N.Y.
SCORES: PGA Professional Championship
In five previous PGA Professional Championship starts, Balin, who began as the new head professional at Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, N.Y., just two weeks ago, has been among the 20 players who advanced to the PGA Championship each time, and he’s never finished worse than 18th.
“This is our major for the year,” said Balin. “We all know what’s at stake, and it gives me a little more motivation to do well out here and play like I know how to play.
“It was tough out there. I didn’t play as good as I did the last two days, but I just made a couple of putts and stayed in it. I didn’t make any big numbers or stupid mistakes. Playing in the final group is tough – knowing what’s at stake and then dealing with the golf course. The greens are firmer, getting a little crusty around the holes, so you have to pay a little more attention on those 2- and 3-footers.”
Beach, the 36-hole leader, lost the lead at the par-5 second with a bogey, while Balin birdied.
Balin made a great up-and-down at the par-4 17th, pitching back into the fairway after a wayward drive, then hitting a 108-yard wedge to 2 feet to save par. He fell back into a tie with Beach with a bogey at 18, where his approach came up short and his pitch stopped 15 feet shy of the hole.
“It was a decent day,” said Beach, whose best finish in three starts was T-9 two years ago. “It was a bit of a rough start and I didn’t have a hot putter today. Some of the holes were a bit tucked, so we played more conservatively, which left us some longer putts. But I hung in there. I’m happy with where I’m at.”
A group five players in a tie for fifth, six shots off the pace, includes three former champions: Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, N.Y., Rich Berberian Jr. of Hooksett, N.H., and Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla.