By CRAIG DOLCH
Justin Bertsch knew he needed to make a move Wednesday if he was going to have a chance at defending the South Florida PGA Professional Championship.
And that’s what he did, playing the first seven holes in six under to shoot 4-under 68 at Broken Sound and share the lead going into today’s final round with Rushi Ouza of Jupiter. Bertsch eagled the first hole and added four birdies.
“That’s just what you wanted, a run like that to get back near the lead,” said Bertsch, the Head Golf Professional at Club Pelican Bay. “I had a couple of three-putts on the back nine, but making birdies at 16 and 18 were good for the mental game.”
Bertsch won last year’s Section Championship to secure Player of the Year honors. He’s third in this year’s race, trailing Alan Morin of the Falls Club.
Oza, a 34-year-old PGA Teaching Professional who works at Jim McLean School, had three birdies against a bogey Wednesday to move into a share of the lead after a 70. Oza knows he’ll have his hands full against Bertsch.
“I played with Justin recently, and that’s a good thing because it will be a comfortable pairing,” Oza said. “I need to keep staying patient. I’m playing well. I don’t want to think about the score and the lead. I don’t do well when I do that. Just stick to my own game.”
Morin, a five-time champion, is tied for third with Rick Gomes (67-139) of Trump National Golf Club. Morin had three birdies and a bogey in his last five holes and will be in the last group.
“Alan has been the best player in this Section for a long time, so it will be good to keep an eye on him,” Bertsch said.
Tyler Collett (66) of John’s Island Club is tied for fifth at 140 with Matt Cahill (71) of Seminole and Paul Scaletta (72) of the Bear’s Club. Adam Miller (73) is eighth at 141. Patrick Rada (69) of McArthur is tied for ninth at 142 with Justin Ahasic (74) of Synergy Golf.
The top 11 players advance to next year’s PGA Professional Championship. Bertsch and Andrew Filbert are exempt. The first two rounds were played at Broken Sound and Plantation Preserve. Thursday's final round will be on The Old Course -- host of next month's TimberText Championship.
The South Florida PGA Professional Championship, run by the South Florida PGA, is sponsored by Club Car and Omega and supported by Titleist/Footjoy, Nike, TaylorMade, Golf Channel, PGA Tour, HATH, DLL, Winner’s Award Group and Worksite.