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Wagner Finishes Third on Nationwide Tour




Wagner, Schultz share 54-hole lead in Chattanooga

Johnson Wagner and Jason Schultz both stumbled out of the gate in Saturday's third round of the Chattanooga Classic, but each recovered to shoot 6-under-par 66s and grab a share of the 54-hole lead.

The two are tied at the top at 17-under-par 199 heading into Sunday's final round at Black Creek Club. Joe Daley (64) and first-round leader James Nitties (67) are one shot back.

Willie Wood, Troy Matteson and Jerry Smith are two off the pace, with five others only three back. A total of 34 players are within six strokes of the lead on a course softened by early-week rains and giving up birdies and eagles on a frequent basis.

Wagner, runner-up here last year, double bogeyed the par-3, third hole and then bogeyed the par-5, fourth to drop to 8-under for the tournament and was quickly headed in the wrong direction.

"I'm thinking I'm 3 over on this course. I love this course and I've never been over-par out here," said Wagner, who also tied for 11th two years ago. "It was frustrating. I was a little nervous and a little worried. I wanted to get back in contention. I was thinking I could get it back to even par by the turn."

The 25-year-old Virginia Tech grad righted the ship with five straight birdies to close out his nine and get back in the hunt.

"I knew it was possible to get a good round out of it but 66 was not really in my thought process," admitted Wagner. "After those five birdies I thought let's go see what we can get."

Wagner rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on No. 13 and then drilled a 6-iron to less than two feet on the par-5, 14th and made eagle to get to 16 under. A two-putt birdie at the closing par-5 broke him free from the pack and made him the one to catch.

"I wanted to be in one of the last groups. I've never won out here before so honestly it might be more comfortable for me to come from behind," said Wagner, who tied for third at the ING New Zealand PGA Championship while playing in the final group in February. "I know no matter what happens tomorrow at the start, I know I can still come back because I've done it before and I can do it again."

Nobody had a better comeback Saturday than Schultz, who turned the front nine in 1-over 37 and was well off the pace.

"You've got to make birdies on this course and I knew it was going to be 20-something under to win," said Schultz, who needed 17 putts on the front. "I'm standing on the 10th tee at 10 under thinking it's now or never. I know I can play well on the back because I have all week."

Schultz pulled driver out on the 335-yard hole in an effort to make something happen in his round. His tee shot came up 10 yards short of the green and he chipped to within 5 feet. The birdie putt was dead-center.

"I play such a momentum game that if I make one birdie I feel like I'm going to make a lot," said Schultz, who made six of them along with an eagle for a back-nine 29 and a spot at the top. "It was just a domino effect. It was almost a disappointment when I didn't birdie them all."

Schultz, like Wagner, eagled the very reachable par-5, 14th with a 7-iron to within a foot. While the two made eagle there, Nathan Green went them one better with a rare double-eagle, the first of the season on the Nationwide Tour. Green's "bottom-grooved 4-iron" cleared the bunker in front of the green and slowly rolled its way towards the cup.

"We got a bit of a cheer when it was on the green from the fans there," said Green. "When it went in, the noise sort of went up. It wasn't pretty but it had a good result."

News and Notes: Matt Hendrix was the first off the tee Saturday morning and played as a single. Hendrix shot a 4-under 68 and needed only 3:05 to complete his day. … Green had the first double-eagle on the Nationwide Tour this year and the 36th in Tour history. Green hit a 4-iron from 216 yards into the hole on the 526-yard, par-5, 14th hole. … Scott Petersen birdied the final six holes Saturday for a 7-under-par 65. Petersen had 11 birdies on the day. … Bubba Watson shot a 7-under 29 on the front side. … Schultz had a 7-under 29 on the back nine. … Four players ran off birdie streaks of five in a row: Daley, Green, Watson and Wagner.









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After leading for Johnson Wagner (Garrison, NY), posted another impressive finish on the Nationwide Tour  final round 72 to finish at 11-under par 277, three strokes behind winner Peter O’Malley of Australia. Wagner’s third place finish earned him $34,800, his biggest check since a tie for second at last year’s Chattanooga Classic, vaulting him to 10th on this season’s money list.


Wagner’s trademark consistent ball-striking was certainly on display especially on Saturday when he managed, in difficult wind conditions, to miss just two greens all day en route to a 68.


"It was very solid and consistent," the 5-time MGA Champion said about his third round. "I didn't make any big mistakes. With this wind, I knew that three or four-under par would move me up and maybe get me in the final group."


Hackensack’s Jim McGovern began his final round tied for 13th, however slipped into a tie for 38th after a 76 to finish 3-under-par. Hackettstown, NJ’s Chris Nallen (71- 75) failed to make the cut.


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Matt Davidson of West Windsor, NJ, and Katie Allison of Mahwah, NJ are still looking make their mark on Tour after earning their cards in December.  Davidson missed the cut this week at the Chrysler Classic of Tuscon, while Allison’s 78-79 was not good enough to make it to the weekend in her inagural start at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay in Oahu, Hawaii.  J.J. Henry, formerly of The Patterson Club in Fairfield, CT, was off this week but looks to continue his solid play at the Ford Championship of Doral in Miami, FL. 











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