Power improves at Hilton Head as Nelson eyes $50,000 payday

Power improves at Hilton Head as Nelson eyes $50,000 payday
 Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson

Seamus Power fired a four under 68 to move into the Top-20 as five-time eGolf Tour winner Ryan Nelson seized a six-shot lead heading into Saturdays final round of the eGolf Gateway Tour's $300,000 Tour Championship at Hilton Head, writes the eGolf Tour.

Without a 2014 victory and in search of some good news after failing to advance past the second stage of Web.com Tour Q-School last month, the 36-year-old married father of two, who admittedly spent the past two weeks pondering his future, is on track for the $50,000 first prize.

He carded a third-round 67 at Palmetto Hall Golf Club to lead on 18-under par and remain on course for a win that would arguably make him the most consistent player on the eGolf Gateway Tour this year.

Power tops the money list with close to $80,00 but Nelson has made 15 of 15 cuts and posted a workmanlike 14 top-25 finishes.

Five of those top-25s were top-5 finishes, including a pair of runner-ups at the Spring Creek Classic and the River Hills Championship – the latter serving as the first event in the tour’s Million Dollar Championship Series.

The consistent play was nothing new for Nelson, whose five victories came in a 26-month span between 2011 and 2013 – far and away the most wins of any player during that time frame.

But as with all developmental tour players, a season is rendered all for naught without success at the three-stage pressure cooker known as Q-School, where countless PGA TOUR hopefuls venture annually with hopes of playing their way up and out of mini-tour golf.

Nine career starts on the Web.com Tour and appearances in both the 2011 and 2013 U.S. Opens more than justify the thought that Nelson is on the wrong tour when in an eGolf event – a sentiment shared by tour staff, officials and most importantly, his peers.

“I watched him warming up in the fog the other day, just smoking it, and I was like, ‘Oh no,’” joked 2014 Web.com Tour member Chris Epperson. “You can pick out a few guys here and there, but he’s just one of those guys at the top of the list who you wish could get out there and just shine. He’s just so good week in and week out.”

Yet Nelson has struggled to make it past Q-School’s second stage – a stark reality that put him on the precipice of looking towards the working world. Just last month, he missed out on advancing to final stage by four shots in Plantation, Fla., setting forth again the inner-questioning that all players face at one time or another.

“I felt pretty good during the practice rounds. Then in the tournament, I didn’t hit it close all week – not once during all four days,” said Nelson, who estimates he’s been to Q-School 10 times in his career. “To go through it again and to not make it again – it’s tough.”

While developmental tour golf is littered with single 20-somethings chasing a dream, Nelson is happily married with two young boys – and a tad closer to 40 than 30. Each year that ends outside final stage gives way to an offseason of assessment.

“That’s always a factor for me. I’m at the upper end of doing this, maybe past where some guys would be since I worked in between two stints of playing,” said Nelson, who logged a handful of years as a club pro in his late-20s before returning to the nomadic life of mini-tours. “But it’s always a consideration. I have to look towards the future.”

For now, he will look towards Saturday’s final round at Palmetto Hall. There might not be anything like a $50,000 first-place prize on this level to suggest the idea that putting forth another year of dream chasing is well worth the ups and downs.

Nelson seems poised to collect career win No. 6, and if he does, looks poised to keep pushing his way up and off golf’s third tier – where he certainly has no place residing.“This career does have a shelf life. If you don’t give it a go, you’ll never know,” he said in his subdued manner. “I’m excited about tomorrow.”

Unlike Nelson, Power will be at the final stage of the Web.com Tour Q-School, which begins at PGA National in West Palm Beach in Florida next Thursday.

eGolf Tour Championship, Robert Cupp Course/Arthur Hills Course

Third-Round Results

1 Ryan Nelson Charleston, SC 64-67-67--198 -18 

2 Peter Malnati Dandridge, TN 68-68-68--204 -12 

3 Andrew Yun Chandler, AZ 65-73-68--206 -10

T4 Jordan Russell College Station, TX 71-68-68--207 -9

T4 Vaita Guillaume Papeete, Tahiti 69-69-69--207 -9

T6 Alex Ching San Diego, CA 68-65-75--208 -8

T6 Justin Martinson Avondale, PA 69-67-72--208 -8

T8 Matt Hansen Los Osos, CA 67-73-69--209 -7

T8 Ted Brown Richmond, VA 70-70-69--209 -7

T8 Richard Fountain Raleigh, NC 67-71-71--209 -7

T8 Harold Varner III Gastonia, NC 68-68-73--209 -7

T19 Seamus Power Ireland 73-70-68--211 -5