Jason Humphrey has been here before, roughly one year ago.
The 32-year-old from Coos Bay, Ore., endured a roller-coaster back nine to shoot a 69 Saturday at The Fairways and hang on to the lead at the 50th Lilac City Invitational. Five players are within four strokes of Humphrey entering today’s final round.
Manito assistant pro Corey Prugh made the biggest move with a 6-under-par 66. He’s at 12-under 204 through 54 holes, one shot behind Humphrey. Defending champion Hank Frame (67) and Shane Prante (69) are at 205, followed by Avondale assistant Russell Grove (71) at 206 and 2006 champion Colby Myers (69) at 207.
Humphrey will tee it up in the final group for the second straight year. He’s paired with Prugh at 12:30 p.m.
“Last year I had some nerves on the first few holes,” Humphrey said. “I was missing some short ones and I think putting is the strength of my game. It was a little different last year because we had two, as far as the professionals, that were way ahead of the field. I shot 73 last year. If I do that I might get 10th.
“I feel like I’m playing better and I’m more confident about my game.”
Humphrey had an eventful last nine holes with four birdies and three bogeys. He had two-putt birdies on 11 and 12 but missed par putts from roughly 4 feet on 10, 13 and 16. He buried a 25-footer on 17 for birdie.
“That was some not-so-great shots and some really good ones,” said Humphrey, a caddy at Bandon Dunes. “I hung in there.”
Prugh’s round included six birdies and no bogeys. His longest par save was a 5-foot downhill putt on No. 13.
“I’m happy about cleaning out the bogeys,” Prugh said. “Today just felt tough, because it seemed like you should have made a lot of birdies and it didn’t seem like anybody went really low.”
Prugh continues to eat up the 533-yard par-5 12th. He eagled it the first two days and had a two-putt birdie Saturday.
“I feel fortunate,” he said. “One shot isn’t too much to make up.”
Frame, the former Washington State Cougar and University High graduate, has played his way into the mix with consecutive 67s. He had three birdies on the front side, including both par 5s. He birdied 10, 11 and 18 for a 3-under back nine.
Prante took the lead at 13 under after draining a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 14. He had solid birdie opportunities on 15, 16 and 18 but played the final four holes in 2 over. He three-putted from 6 feet for bogey on 15 and missed a 10-footer for par on 17.
“I should be (leading), but that’s the way it goes,” said the 30-year-old Prante, who played at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey, Wash. “I hit the ball great. I had a putt (on 16) to go to 6 under. I hit a good putt, lipped out and I was probably a little irritated there.”
Humphrey expects to see several low scores today.
“I don’t think you can go out and make pars and skate home,” he said. “I’d say 65 would be a good number, but even that might not be good enough.”