DETROIT — Nate Lashley shot a bogey-free, 9-under 63 on Saturday to open a six-stroke lead in the Rocket Mortgage Classic at 23-under 193.
The 36-year-old Lashley slipped into the field at Detroit Golf Club as an alternate and the 353rd-ranked player has put himself in position to win for the first time on the PGA Tour. He tied for eighth in February in the Puerto Rico Open — played opposite the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship — for his only top-10 finish on the tour.
Lashley, the first- and second-round leader, started Saturday with a one-shot lead and pulled away with the low round of the day.
Lashley is in his second season on the PGA Tour, reaching the highest level of golf after a long road that included tragedy , selling real estate and playing in the PGA Tour’s minor leagues.
After watching Lashley play in a tournament for the University of Arizona in 2004, his parents and girlfriend died in a plane crash in Wyoming. Rod and Char Lashley along with Leslie Hofmeister, all of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, were missing for three days before their bodies and the wreckage were found near the 13,780-foot Gannett Peak.
Lashley, who is from Nebraska, made a living as a real estate agent after graduating from college and his playing career started, stopped and resumed again. He won the Waterloo Open, a professional tournament, in Iowa in 2011 and quit competitive golf the next year. Lashley gave the game another shot, playing on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica circuit in 2015 and moved up to what is now called the Korn Ferry Tour two years later.
He made his PGA Tour debut last season in his mid-30s, but he had to end his year after 17 events because of a knee injury.
Lashley is not long off the tee, ranking among the middle of the pack at Detroit Golf Club. He has been spectacularly accurate on his approach shots into receptive greens, setting him for a lot of relatively short putts that he’s making.
When Lashley did take chances, he was able to make shots.
His drive on the 559-yard, par-5 seventh landed in an adjacent fairway, leaving him with the choice of hitting a shot low below branches or sending the ball over towering trees and toward the green. He chose to go high and cleared the trees, leaving him 120 feet from the pin. Lashley’s approach landed just 4 feet from the cup and he made the putt for birdie.
He had birdies on four of his first seven holes and had five more on the back nine in the third round. He opened the Rocket Mortgage Classic with a 63, setting a career low he matched Saturday. He shot a 67 in the second round.