Ex-goalie Nessling dives into contention

AS a talented goalkeeper in his youth Paul Nessling was no stranger to keeping clean sheets and bar a last hole bogey, served up the golfing equivalent to dive into contention at the Titleist & FootJoy PGA Professional Championship.

The Cooden Beach pro, who as a teenager was on Sunderland’s books alongside England star Jordan Henderson, fired an almost flawless 67 in tricky conditions at The Oxfordshire to join Ireland’s David Higgins at the top of a crowded leaderboard after three rounds.

Nessling’s five-under-par, which matched the low round of the day by David Callaway, included an explosive start with three birdies in four holes.

Fittingly his fireworks came alongside playing partner, and occasional coach, Andy Raitt from St George’s Hill who had ignited the £78,000 event with a course record equalling 63 in the first round.

The pair traded birdies and Raitt, after a nightmare 77 yesterday, is firmly back in the hunt with his 69 leaving him just two shots off the lead alongside defending champion Paul Hendriksen (Ivybridge) and Graham Fox (Clydeway Golf) with Thorpe Wood’s Stuart Brown above them one stroke behind the leaders.

Teeing off in the final pairing alongside Higgins in the PGA’s flagship event will be a first for Nessling but he is relishing the prospect.

“This is a new experience, but I’ll just try and do what I’ve done the last few days. It will be alien for me but this is why you play golf to be in this position and we’ll give it a really good go.”

Waterville Links-attached Higgins, meanwhile, was philosophical after playing some of his best golf but managing only a level par 72.

“It was a frustrating day today,” he said. “I played well and putted nicely but they just didn’t go in but that’s golf. You’re frustrated when you come off but when you look at the leaderboard I’m still tied for the lead.”

Image of Paul Nessling and Andy Raitt attached courtesy of Tom Dulate ../ Getty Images.

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