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Nate Lashley one round away from ‘life-changing’ breakthrough

Nate Lashley reacts after making birdie on the 18th green during round three of the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Country Club on June 29, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

DETROIT — Nate Lashley will head into his Sunday round in the final pairing with a six-shot lead in search of his first win on the PGA Tour.

The 353rd-ranked golfer in the world didn’t know he would be playing in the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic until Wednesday after playing a qualifying tournament earlier in the week.

Since then, he has gone on to shoot 63 twice in three days and sits at 23-under heading into Sunday.

On Saturday, he found 10-of-14 fairways, hit 16-of-18 greens on his way to nine birdies and no bogeys.

“It was just one of those days where really nothing could go wrong,” Lashley said after the round.

Lashley has led the event after each of the first three rounds and heads into Sunday with a comfortable margin of error. But he said he doesn’t want to think about the scoreboard.

“Try not to think about the six-shot lead,” he said. “I’m just going to try to go out tomorrow and stay aggressive and keep trying to make birdies. Take it one shot at a time and see what happens at the end of the day.”

It has been a long road for Lashley to get to the PGA Tour. At one point he was flipping houses and thought he was done with golf.

He eventually earned status on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica, where he won three times. Lashley used that momentum to earn status on the then-Web.com Tour where he won in 2017 and earned his PGA Tour card ahead of last season.

“I always felt like I had the talent and ability to play out here, but it was just a matter of getting out here and getting comfortable,” Lashley said. “It’s not an easy thing to do by no means, but it takes some time and I feel like I’m finally there and can hopefully take advantage tomorrow.”

A win on Sunday would bring a sense of security Lashley hasn’t been able to have for most of his career, including exemptions to all Tour events, invitations to major championships and a two-year extension on the status of his Tour card.

He admitted all of the perks that come with a win are life-changing but said he can’t worry about them until the tournament is over.

“That’s something you definitely don’t want to be thinking about out on the golf course, just try to take it one shot, be focused in on what you’re trying to do on that shot,” Lashley said. “Try to block out all the distractions … all the exemptions, everything that comes along with winning. It’s a life-changing event but tomorrow I’m just gonna come out, try to play golf and see what happens at the end of the day.”

Lashley will be paired with J.T. Poston, who shot 66 on Saturday to get within six strokes of the lead.

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