Wolfe assumes 54-hole lead at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic
January 21, 2020
By Stewart Moore, PGATOUR.COM
- January 21, 2020
- Jared Wolfe shot a third-round, 7-under 65 at Royal Blue GC to take a one-shot lead over Brandon Harkins. (Taylor Crosby/PGA TOUR)
NASSAU, The Bahamas — Jared Wolfe has notched victories on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica each of the last three years, and now sits on the precipice of earning his first Korn Ferry Tour title. After rounds of 67-69-65—201 (15-under), the 31-year-old journeyman will carry a one-shot lead into Wednesday’s final round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at Baha Mar.
Wolfe entered Tuesday’s third round at Royal Blue Golf Course trailing 36-hole leader Mickey DeMorat by three shots at 8-under for the week.
The former Murray State University golfer wasted no time in making up the gap, notching birdies on Nos. 2, 5, 6 and 9 to turn in 4-under 32 and 12-under for the tournament.
“It was a good day today, obviously. I started out really well and birdied the second hole of the day, then had easy pins on Nos. 5 and 6, and I knew I had No. 9 coming up, which has been one of the easiest holes this week,” said Wolfe.
The Kentucky native birdied the par-5 11th to move to 13-under but gave that stroke back quickly after a bogey on the par-4 14th. Over the closing stretch, Wolfe again caught fire, making birdie on 15, 17 and 18 to come from behind for a 7-under 65 to grab a one-shot lead over Brandon Harkins heading into Wednesday’s final round.
Wolfe played the Korn Ferry Tour full-time in 2014 and 2018, but only made one start in 2019, posting a missed cut at the LECOM Health Challenge.
Over the last three years, the 31-year-old played extensively on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, notching a victory each year amidst 38 total starts. He won the 2017 BMW Jamaica Classic, 2018 Volvo Abierto de Chile and 2019 Buenaventura Classic. Wolfe has twice secured a Korn Ferry Tour card through PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, finishing second on the Order of Merit in 2017 and third last year – thanks in part to back-to-back top-3 finishes in his last two starts to move six spots up the list and inside “Los Cinco.”
Wolfe also has 19 career starts on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, including four starts in 2019 which netted three top-10 finishes.
“Those Tours do such a good job. That experience puts me at a little bit of a comfort, being fortunate enough to be in position to win a decent amount of times down there (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica) has calmed me down, knowing that it’s just golf. So tomorrow, I can approach it that way as opposed to thinking, ‘Wow, you can win a tournament.’ I’m definitely a lot more comfortable.”
Harkins, who held the lead throughout much of Tuesday’s third round, finished with a 6-under 66 to reach 14-under 2020.
In 2017, Harkins opened his season on the Korn Ferry Tour with a 12-over 84 and a missed cut in brutal conditions at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay. Fast forward to 2020, and Harkins is again in The Bahamas, this time one shot back with 18 holes to play and eyeing his first Tour win at Baha Mar.
Harkins secured his PGA TOUR card for the 2017-18 season via the Korn Ferry Tour in 2017, overcoming the rough start in Exuma to finish 21st on the Regular Season money list – bolstered by a runner-up effort at the Ellie Mae Classic (one of four top-10s that year).
In October of last year, the Harkins family welcomed their first child with the birth of a boy, Jackson. Like with any new parent, the added perspective about life and the real importance of a game has had a profound impact on the 33-year-old, and that just might be paying off this week.
“It’s a game, that’s what it is. If I shoot 80 or I shoot 60, I get to go home and see him either way. For me that’s been a big change,” said Harkins. “I think I overworked myself a little bit the last couple of years on TOUR and I expected perfection, which is the furthest thing you’re going to get in golf. With what’s happened with my family, it’s been a major positive for me and how I look at the game of golf.”
Greg Yates, Callum Tarren, Nick Hardy, Chip McDaniel and Curtis Thompson are tied for third at 12-under 204, three shots back of Wolfe. McDaniel, a former star at the University of Kentucky, is competing these first two weeks in The Bahamas on sponsor exemptions.
McDaniel made golf headlines in 2019 by making eight starts in PGA TOUR events despite not having any status, thanks in part to three successful Monday qualifiers (tying Corey Conners for the most during the TOUR’s 2018-19 season). He finished with 82 non-member FedExCup points to fall 13 points shy of qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
The 24-year-old made his five additional starts in a variety of ways, from a T5 at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship (which put him in the following week’s Valero Texas Open), to advancing to the U.S. Open through sectional qualifying and finally, to three sponsor’s exemptions after his story went viral on social media.
To open the PGA TOUR’s 2019-20 season, McDaniel lost a 5-for-2 Monday qualifier playoff at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier but bounced back the following week by qualifying for the Sanderson Farms Championship. He also received a sponsor’s exemption into the inaugural Bermuda Championship.
At Final Stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, McDaniel finished T41 to miss out on eight guaranteed starts to open the 2020 season by one shot.