Brady Schnell was born in Iowa but later lived in Nebraska, and has a name that sounds like an old Cornhuskers fullback of the Tom Osborne era.
Schnell did play college golf for the Huskers and now is trying to make a living doing it. On Sunday, he’ll take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Rex Hospital Open, seeking his first career win on the Web.com Tour and all the perks that would come with a victory.
After missing the cut in his last four tournaments, Schnell has put together rounds of 66, 67 and another 4-under-par 67 on Saturday that has him at 13-under 200 at TPC Wakefield Plantation. A shot behind at 201 were J.J. Spaun, who had a third-round 68, and Dominic Bozzelli, who had a 67.
Why this week for Schnell?
“The birdies have been there this year but too many bogeys and I’ve been trying to figure that out,” he said. “I had a very nice sense of calm today and I hope I wake up (Sunday) and feel that, as well.
“It’s staying to yourself and not worrying about leader boards or anything. I’m hitting it well. My mental game is good. It’s just something I’ve got to go do tomorrow.”
Sleeping on a lead is a first on the tour for Schnell, 31, who turned pro in 2007. He did lead and then win a mini-tour event this year in Phoenix, but has just $3,394 in winnings on the Web.com Tour.
Spaun, the 2015 player of the year on the Mackenize Tour in Canada, was the first-round leader after a 63 and was tied for the 36-hole lead with Schnell. The former San Diego State golfer had a shaky start Saturday but eagled the par-5 fourth hole with a 40-foot putt that hit a pebble about halfway to the cup.
“Everyone was like, ‘Whoa!’ Spaun said, smiling. “It jumped about an inch in the air. It stayed on track and caught the lip and dropped.”
Schnell, playing in the final group with Spaun, birdied three of the first four holes and added another two birdies for a front-nine 31. He bogeyed the 10th and 12th holes but rebounded with a birdie at the par-4 17th.
Bozzelli, a former Auburn golfer, had a double-bogey at the par-4 seventh. He then had five birdies before a bogey at the 17th that kept him from sharing the lead.
“A little bit of everything,” he said of the round. “I haven’t had my best stuff ball-striking this week but I’ve been really good chipping and putting. That’s the great equalizer.”
Jack Maguire, a former Florida State All-American, had an early 63 that was the day’s low score. It quickly got the attention of those teeing off later.
“I saw he was tearing it up,” Bozzelli said.
Maguire, playing his second career Web.com Tour event, moved up 55 spots and is five shots back at 8-under 205.
Grayson Murray of Raleigh had four birdies and two bogeys in a 69 to get in at 7-under 206. A local favorite, he created a stir at the 18th, holing a 45-footer for birdie.
“It was tough out there with the wind, especially on the back when it was blowing pretty good,” Murray said. “It’s also tough to make birdies when you leave yourself above the hole, like I’ve done all week.”
Murray is playing on a sponsor’s exemption and also making his second Web.com Tour start of the year. A top-25 finish in the Rex would earn him a spot in the next event, the BMW Charity Pro-Am, but he’s after even more on Sunday.
“Hopefully I can get in the top 25 or top 10,” he said. “Or top five. You never know how the leaders will do. If I could post a good number early. …”
Murray made Rex history in 2010. At 16, he became the second-youngest player to survive the 36-hole cut on the Web.com Tour – albeit the same day another 16-year-old, Jordan Spieth, made the cut on the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship.
While Schnell, Spaun and Bozzelli aren’t household names, even among many golf aficionados, and haven’t won in tour, consider that Jason Day once played on the Web.com Tour. He’s now the No. 1 ranked player in the world.
“Not many come out and go straight to the PGA Tour,” Murray said. “This is basically the way to get out to the PGA Tour.”
And do it by contending and winning.