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Damron Dazzling Up North

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VICTORIA, British Columbia -- American Patrick Damron finds himself in unfamiliar territory as he carries the lead into Saturdays third round of the Canadian Tours Victoria Open.
 
The Canadian Tour rookie, who carried a two-shot lead into the second round, didnt bend under the pressure Friday, posting a 3-under 67. His 36-hole total of 10-under 130 is two shots clear of Steve Schneiter of Utah. Former PGA Tour champion Richard Zokol of White Rock, B.C., drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to come in at 7-under 133.
 
A total of 66 players made the cut with a two-day total of 2'over 142 or better.
 
Damron, the younger brother of PGA winner Robert, has made three of five cuts in his rookie campaign and has not finished higher than 13th. Robert Damron played on the Canadian Tour back in 1996, and the experience was something he was able to pass on to his younger brother, advising him to kick off his professional career north of the border. The suggestion was echoed by longtime Tour member Kevin Baker, one of Damrons closest friends.
 
I play with Kevin almost every day, and both he and Robert told me to come up here, it was the best place to get the experience and improve your game, said the 24-year-old. Ive met a lot of the guys out here before, and you know you are going to have to play well to win.
 
Schneiter played on the Canadian Tour from 1992 through 1994 before plying his trade on what is now known as the Nationwide Tour for the next four seasons. With no place to play this year, he was urged by good friend and Canadian Tour player Brad Sutterfield to request a sponsors exemption into this event. He has attended PGA Tour Qualifying School for 16 consecutive seasons but has never been able to play full-time on golfs biggest stage.
 
With Saturdays always referred to as moving day in the world of golf, Schneiter wouldnt bite when asked if he would rather be the hunter or the hunted heading into round three.
 
Its always fun to come from a little bit behind and sneak up on someone, but you cant think like that. Ill take what I can get. Im just going to stay in the present and worry about my own game.
 
As he sails off into unchartered waters Saturday, Damron admits he is looking forward to the challenge of playing with Zokol, a seasoned pro who happens to be a friend of his brother. While he isnt sure how he will react playing in the final group, he seems to like the feeling a whole lot better than the alternative.
 
Well I like the idea of being chased, since usually its me doing the chasing, added Damron. I just want to go out there and keep doing what Ive been doing. Who am I to say? Ive never been in this position before. Id like to try it from here and see what happens.
 
Harris, with four second place finishes in the past year, once again finds himself sniffing around the top of the leaderboard. A thunderous roar echoed throughout Royal Colwood Friday when Harris, wearing a microphone for a Golf Channel broadcast, aced the 175-yard, par-3 13th, his fourth hole of the day. Despite hitting a couple of speed bumps later in the round, including a double-bogey six on number three, Harris feels confident heading into Saturday.
 
I took my lumps where I did, now I just have to get ready for the weekend, he said. Theres just two good rounds left and I can walk away with the trophy Sunday.
 
Schneiter had a rollercoaster round himself, carding five birdies with a pair of bogeys. His day was typified on the par-5 15th beginning with an errant tree shot that sailed left and landed a foot from the base of a tree. Kneeling down, Schneiter then backhanded a chip onto the fairway before cranking a 3-iron left once again. He then pulled off his shot of the day, chipping his fourth stroke over a bunker, with the ball bouncing off the bank of a hill and rolling to within five feet of the cup to save par.
 
That was certainly an up and down round, said Schneiter. It was pretty adventurous, but I just hung in there. That 15th hole was a grind, and I was lucky to get out with par.
 
If things dont work out this weekend, Schneiter will head over to the mainland and try to qualify for next weeks Greater Vancouver Classic on Monday. With a win here, he will be exempted through the end of the 2005 season. He can board the ferry to Vancouver Sunday night $28,000 richer, and knowing he doesnt have to get up early for the qualifier.
 
Yeah, well thats the plan, he said with a smile Friday. Just dont tell anyone.
 

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