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Rookie, Vet Move Ahead Young Charles Leads Gleim By One Stroke At Lilac Invite

The weather was perfect at The Fairways Saturday afternoon, except for the storm that blew through.

Michael Charles weathered the storm with a birdie at 17 for a 7-under 65 that put him at 15-under 201, one shot ahead of Storm Gleim, after three rounds of the Downtown Holiday Inn Express Lilac Invitational.

“I just tried to enjoy myself out there,” said Charles, a 23-year-old rookie from Portland. “It was nice and sunny and warm. In between shots, I just sat and enjoyed myself.”

He had plenty to enjoy during a 6-hour round that included a 3-1/2-hour front side. He made short birdie putts on Nos. 2 and 3 and then rolled in an 18-foot downhill putt for bird on No. 4.

“The putt on four that went in was a bonus,” he said. “That might have been the shot that got me going.”

Gleim also had a 65, which included a three-putt bogey on 16. Tony Robydek had a strong finish for a 67 to go 13-under at 203.

A group of five golfers were at 205, Jon Lindstrom, John Wallace, Scott Johnson, Craig Gronning and Michael Combs. Combs, the 1995 champion who had started the day with a three-shot lead, struggled for an even-par 72.

“I don’t think I shot myself out of the tournament by any means,” Combs said. “There are a lot of birdies out there. I can make them as well as anyone.”

While Charles was steady, Gleim was making noise. He made the turn at 5-under and just kept going.

“Actually, I putted real well,” said Gleim, 36, of Phoenix. “This golf course is all a putting game, you have so much room on the fairways. I thought I putted great until I added up my putts, 30.”

The slow play didn’t bother Gleim, and no one really wanted to use that for an excuse.

“Everybody’s got to deal with it,” Gleim said. “It was the last three or four holes when I was tired and hungry.”

Combs said, “That’s not an excuse. It didn’t seem to bother the guys I was with (Charles and Robydek). My poor play bothered me more than the slow play. It was just one of those days. Every year in this tournament one of those days creeps up. You just have to get it in the house.”

The final group, which goes off last at 2:22 this afternoon, is Charles, Gleim and Robydek.

“I’ve won some and lost some (from the final group), but I haven’t won any as a pro,” said Charles, who turned pro last fall after playing at the University of Portland.

Gleim, who still hopes to make the PGA Tour, has by far the most experience in the last group.

“I love it,” he said. “I’m going to keep playing. I don’t worry about the other guys, I just play my game. If I make a couple of early birdies, I might shake them up. All it’s going to be is a putting game.”

Robydek, a 27-year-old Tacoma native, didn’t appear to be headed for the final group until his 110-yard approach on 16 went into the cup for an eagle-2. He then put his tee shot tight on the 153-yard 17th for a birdie that gave him a 67.

“It just shows that even if nothing goes right and you hang in there, all of a sudden the golf gods are with me,” he said. “That’s the difference between playing in the last group and the fifth group. I don’t know what to say, I just got lucky.”

Defending champion Bob Rannow shot a 70 and is 10 back at 211. Six-time champion Chris Mitchell also had a 70 and is seven back. Gary Lindeblad, the 1994 champion, shot a par-72 and is 12 back at 213.

Mike Booth had an 11 on No. 2, hitting three out-of-bounds and three-putting, and played the rest of the holes even for a 79. He’s at 217. John Durgan, the tournament director, took a nine on No. 5 and an eight on No. 9, meaning he played the rest of the holes 1-under.

“(Booth) broke 80 and had an 11,” Durgan said. “His story is as interesting as mine. What’s the most difficult shot in golf? The one after a shank. I did that on No. 5 and then had a 3-1/2-footer for a seven and made nine.”

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: LEADERBOARD Top professionals entering today’s final round of the Lilac Invitational at The Fairways (par-72, 6,398 yards): Michael Charles 65-71-65-201 Storm Gleim 67-70-65-202 Tony Robydek 68-68-67-203 Jon Lindstrom 68-71-66-205 John Wallace 69-68-68-205 Scott Johnson 70-67-68-205 Craig Gronning 71-67-67-205 Michael Combs 68-65-72-205

This sidebar appeared with the story: LEADERBOARD Top professionals entering today’s final round of the Lilac Invitational at The Fairways (par-72, 6,398 yards): Michael Charles 65-71-65-201 Storm Gleim 67-70-65-202 Tony Robydek 68-68-67-203 Jon Lindstrom 68-71-66-205 John Wallace 69-68-68-205 Scott Johnson 70-67-68-205 Craig Gronning 71-67-67-205 Michael Combs 68-65-72-205

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