FRANK ESPOSITO BUILDS THREE-STROKE LEAD AT 2014 CHAMPIONS TOUR NATIONAL QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
WINTER GARDEN, FL – Frank Esposito (Monroe, NJ) (pictured by Getty Images) used a 5-under-par 67 on Thursday to build a three-stroke lead after 54 holes at the 2014 Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament at Orange County National (Panther Lake Course). The club professional from New Jersey has a three-round total of 10-under-par 206, while Cesar Monasterio (Buenos Aires, Argentina), the second-round leader is at 7-under-par 209.
Hoping to build on his success following last week’s victory at the Senior PGA Professional National Championship in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Esposito pulled away from Monasterio with three birdies over a five-hole stretch on the back nine. He sank a five-footer on No. 14 to take the lead, a 20-footer on No. 16 and added his third on the next hole when he drained a 50-foot putt to increase his lead to three strokes.
“I played pretty well again today and just hit it solid,” Esposito said. “I hit a couple of squirrely shots but overall I hit it pretty well. I’ve been happy with my distance control with my irons and I’ve been driving it well and making some putts.”
The only blemishes on Esposito’s card came on Nos. 6 and 9. He pulled his tee shot left near a tree on No. 6 and his tee shot on No. 9 found the water, resulting in a double bogey.
“Those birdies after the two bogeys helped keep the round going. You’ve just got to put those out of your mind and forget about them,” Esposito added, referring to his bogeys.
Monasterio led by two strokes early on, but saw his round go sideways midway on his front nine. He made a double bogey on No. 4 and a bogey two holes later to relinquish his lead. He battled back with birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 to regain a share of the lead, but Esposito took the lead for good with his birdie at No. 14 and upped it to three over the final four holes.
Jerry Smith (Scottsdale, Ariz.) is currently in third place at 5-under-par 211, while there is a four-way tie for fourth place with Craig Thomas (White Plains, NY), Rod Spittle (Niagara Falls, Ont., Canada), Joel Edwards (Irving, Tex.) and Jeff Freeman (Windermere, Fla.).
There will be no cut in the 72-hole qualifier. After Friday’s final round, the top-five finishers earn fully-exempt status through the re-order in the 2015 season, while the next seven players will be conditionally exempt. In addition, the top-30 finishers and ties will be eligible to compete for spots in open qualifiers at all co-sponsored events on the Champions Tour in 2015.
Q-School Notes: With more pleasant weather conditions on Thursday, the scoring average dropped from 73.882 to 72.613. Friday’s forecast calls for partly-cloudy skies with highs in the low-70s…Scott Parel (Augusta, Ga.), who is currently T8, won the Champions Tour’s Florida Regional Qualifier here at Orange County National (Crooked Cat Course) by five strokes. Parel has also qualified for the Web.com Tour’s Q-School Finals next month in Florida. Parel has made 10 bogeys in the event, but has bounced back with six birdies following those bogeys to lead all players in that category…Esposito leads all players with 16 birdies and is the only player in the field to have posted three consecutive sub-par rounds…The most difficult hole after three rounds has been No. 16 and there have been just 12 birdies.
Source: PGA TOUR