BROUSSARD, La. -- Greg Sonnier celebrated his 30th birthday in style Saturday at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by Dynamic Industries. The local favorite fired a 9-under 62 to move to 10 under overall and into serious contention at the Nationwide Tour's fourth event of the season.
"Today is my birthday, so I guess that is why things went my way," Sonnier said, explaining his bogey-free round. "What a way to celebrate the big 3-0."
Sonnier, a resident of Lake Charles, La., and former All-American at nearby University of Louisiana-Lafayette, could do no wrong during the third round. In addition to seven birdies, the highlight of his day was a holed 9-iron for eagle from 140 yards at the par-4 15th hole.
The odds of Sonnier having the opportunity to fire his career-low round were not good.
First of all, he is not a member of the Nationwide Tour, having played the last few years on both the Tight Lies Tour and the NGA Tour. Had it not been for a sponsor's exemption granted from the tournament, Sonnier would not be walking the same fairways at Le Triomphe Golf Club where he once served as an assistant professional.
"I'm just thankful for the Louisiana Open giving me the opportunity to play this week," said Sonnier, who is seeking to become the first sponsor's exemption to win since Kevin Stadler claimed the 2004 Peek'n Peak Classic.
Secondly, Sonnier was all but sure late Friday afternoon that the cut would come in at 2 under and lead to his fourth missed cut in four career starts on Tour. That all changed when Chris Nallen -- playing in the next-to-last group -- missed a 2-footer for bogey on the final hole to open the door for 21 additional players. As a result, a Tour-record 81 players were left to vie for the $90,000 first-place prize over the weekend.
"I was at my friend Theo Sliman's house and kind of high-fived when I made the cut," said Sonnier. "I was thinking about needing to clean my locker out and then Chris doubled the last hole. Luckily I took advantage of the opportunity today."
Sonnier has history on his side as he prepares for the final round. Playing at the 1996 Sun Belt Conference Championship -- at this very same Le Triomphe Golf Club -- Sonnier birdied the final hole of regulation to force a playoff with Heath Slocum. He would eventually prevail over the current PGA TOUR star for perhaps the biggest win of his career. That would change, of course, with a win on Sunday.
"In my situation, I'm just happy to make a check," said Sonnier.
Anything else will just be icing on the cake.
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