Originally created 09/17/06

Potter lurking near lead



Who needs college golf? Apparently not Ted Potter.


The 22-year-old Potter, who turned pro out of high school at age 19, showed Saturday why he's won two of the past three Hooters Tour events and is the circuit's leading money winner.


With 4-under-par 68 in the third round of the Kandy Waters Memorial Classic, Potter moved to within a shot of Kenneth Staton's lead at Goshen Plantation Golf Club.


Staton, who has held at least a share of the lead after each round, had 71 on Saturday after opening with 66-69.


"I'm slowly getting tired," the 33-year-old Staton joked. "I'm an old man compared to some of these kids out here."


Staton is at 10-under 206 for the tournament and will be in the final pairing today with Potter and Tommy Biershenk, who had his third consecutive 69 and is tied with Potter at 207.


Augusta's Emmett Turner, one shot off the lead after 36 holes, is now four behind after 74 for 210. Turner battled back from a triple bogey on No. 2 and double bogey on No. 13 to remain in contention.


Of the other two area players to make the cut, Aiken's Dane Burkhart had 71 and is at 214 and Augusta's William Lanier shot 75 for 218.


Today's winner will earn $24,000, and have the opportunity to win almost that much in title sponsor L.D. Waters' "$20,000 Shootout." After the round, the winner will play the hardest hole on the course. If it birdies it, he earns the $20,000.


All eyes today will be on Potter, who is the second-youngestregular on the tour behind 21-year-old Casey Wittenberg, who had 68 and is two shots out of the lead.

Potter is 10 under for his previous two rounds after opening with 73 on Thursday.


For his past 15 rounds on the tour, Potter is 55 under par.


"I've been playing pretty good for the last couple of months so it's been really going well," Potter said.


After losing in a playoff in the Olde Oaks Classic in Haughton, La., on July 16, Potter went on to win the Dothan Classic on Aug. 20 and the Michelob Ultra Light Classic last week in Little River, S.C.


"He's the hot golfer right now on this tour; he's there every week," said Staton, a former PGA and Nationwide Tour player. "I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got to bring."


What Staton will see is an aggressive game from Potter that has produced 12 birdies and an eagle in the past 36 holes at the tough Goshen course.


"He does play fearless," Turner said of Potter. "He's going to hit driver on just about every hole; he doesn't really care. He hits it a long way and straight - that's a lethal combination most of the time."


Like Potter, the 33-year-old Biershenk is a two-time winner on the tour this year.


"I don't know him personally, but he's been posting some great numbers," Biershenk said of Potter. "He's certainly going to have a lot of confidence. He may be the guy to beat."


Potter, of Silver Springs, Fla., skipped college for a simple reason.


"I really didn't want to go to school, that was basically it," he said. "I was playing good and I figured I'd turn pro and try it out."


He played the Florida Moonlight Tour in 2003, qualified for the Nationwide Tour in 2004, and was back on the Moonlight Tour in 2005 before joining the Hooters Tour this year.


"I think it's been a good decision," Potter said of bypassing college. "It's been going pretty well. It seems like my goal is getting closer, to get out there (the PGA Tour). We'll see what happens at Q-School this year."


Potter is the leading money winner with $83,462, and is sixth in the point standings with three tournaments to play. That's important because the Hooters Tour pays the Q-School entry fee for the top three finishers in the points race, which is based on high finishes in tournaments.


"That would be nice," said Potter, who is 171 points out of third place.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.