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Andress, Pak set to battle Sunday with big group giving chase

John Pak John Pak - PGA TOUR Canada (@PGATOURCanada)

WASKESIU, Saskatchewan—John Pak, the 36-hole co-leader, and rookie Wilson Andress are tied at 14-under 196, and they will take a one-shot lead into the final round of the Elk Ridge Saskatchewan Open presented by Brandt.

Pak, of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, shot a 4-under 66 Saturday, and Andress, of Charleston, South Carolina, parlayed a stretch of five consecutive birdies into a 5-under 65 at the Elk Ridge Resort with one round remaining in PGA TOUR Canada’s second event of the season.

The duo holds a slim advantage over Brandon Hoelzer of Freemont, Ohio, and Connor Howe of Ogden Utah, who are tied for third, at 13-under 197, and a two-shot lead over Cameron Sisk of San Diego, California, and Luis Gagne of Costa Rica in the race for the season-long Fortinet Cup.

The low Canadian is Noah Steele, of Kingston, Ontario. He carded a 6-under 64 and moved up 15 spots, into a tie for 10th, at 10 under. Steele signed for a dazzling 30 on the back nine that included six birdies. Ziggy Nathu of Richmond, British Columbia, shot 66 and is tied for 12th, at 9 under.

Pak is trying to come back from wrist surgery in May. Although he said the injury—and subsequent operation—wasn’t serious, it dinged his confidence. Having a new opportunity to earn his first professional win has helped reinforce the notion that Pak is on the right path.

“I was a little down on myself and was wondering if I’m still the player I used to be,” said Pak, who won the 2021 Ben Hogan Award and Fred Haskins Award given to the national college player of the year while at Florida State. “But this definitely reassures a little bit.”

Pak had five birdies and one bogey during his steady round, with three birdies on the back nine.

“That was very important,” Pak said. “The front nine is a lot tougher than the back, and I keep telling myself to stay patient. I think patience is super important out here because you could easily get too aggressive and lose the ball. I just stayed patient and just played my game.”

Andress was going the wrong way early when he made bogeys at No. 2 and No. 5. But he turned things around with back-to-back birdies at No. 6 and No. 7 then reeled off five consecutive birdies from No. 9-13, giving him seven birdies for the day.

“One of the biggest lessons I learned in college from my coach (Carter Collins at Georgia Southern University) is that your run is always going to come, so stick with your game plan,” Andress said. “The first five holes my game plan wasn’t working, and then I just kind of got hot. It was pretty cool. I wasn’t expecting seven, but it happens.”

Hoelzer moved into a tie for third place after a 64, the low round of the day. He finished his round with three birdies, including an ace at the 147-yard par-3 17th hole.

Howe recorded four birdies—including a near-ace on 17 that stopped a foot shot of the hole—on the final nine and put up his second straight 66.

“I didn’t really make many putts today, but I made the turn and knew there were a lot of birdies on that back nine,” Howe said. “I just stayed patient and was hitting good shots, so I just thought I’d get rewarded eventually, and I did.”

Gagne, one of three co-leaders after 36 holes, birdied the final hole to shoot 68. Sisk had four birdies on the front side and birdied the 18th hole for a 64.

Tied for seventh, three shots back, at 11 under, are Chris Korte of Littleton, Colorado, who shot 66, and Thomas Longbella of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, who shot 68. Korte is tied for second in the early Fortinet Cup standings.

Sixteen players are within five shots of the lead.