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Pair share lead at Utah Classic

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Scott Gutschewski tees off on 13th hole during third round of the Utah Classic. With 18 holes left, he shares the lead with Jeff Freeman.

Scott Gutschewski tees off on 13th hole during third round of the Utah Classic. With 18 holes left, he shares the lead with Jeff Freeman.

Kira Horvath, Deseret Morning News

SANDY — What is it about Nebraska golfers and Utah golf tournaments this summer?

Less than three weeks after Steve Freisen came in from the Cornhusker State to capture the Utah Open, another Nebraskan — actually one of Freisen's college teammates — has jumped to the top of the leaderboard at the Envirocare Utah Classic.

Scott Gutschewski fired an 8-under-par 64 to grab a share of the lead after three rounds of the $450,000 Nationwide Tour event at Willow Creek Country Club. Gutschewski stands at 16-under-par 200 heading into today's final round along with Jeff Freeman, who shot a 66 Saturday.

Gutschewski and Freeman, who have never even met, will tee off in the final group today at 1:30 p.m., chasing the $81,000 first prize.

But there's a host of challengers lurking close behind.

Bobby Gage, a Nationwide Tour veteran from Florida, is one shot back at 201 after shooting a 66, while Zach Johnson, the No. 3 money-winner on the Tour this year stands at 202 after a 65. Then there's Roger Tambellini and Mark Hensby three back at 203.

Scott Gump and Bo Van Pelt stand at 204, while Jimmy Walker and second-round leader Roland Thatcher, who could only manage a 72, are at 205. That's 10 players within five strokes of the lead, with another seven players six strokes back.

The most unlikely of all the contenders is Gutschewski, who isn't even a regular member of the Nationwide Tour. The 26-year-old played in his hometown Omaha Classic a month ago, finished in a tie for 16th and has kept playing every week. That's because of a Nationwide Tour policy that allows a non-member the chance to play in the next tournament if he finishes in the top 25.

"It was fun today," said Gutschewski, who looks like he could play defensive end for Nebraska, his alma mater, right now. As a matter of fact, he did play that position in high school before turning his full attention to golf.

Gutschewski says he has stayed away from the scales since college, but guesses he might weigh "270-ish." He's never won a 72-hole event in his life and his only professional win came on the Hooters Tour and in a couple of mini-Tour events. His largest paycheck to date was for about $16,000.

Saturday was a long day for Gutschewski, who was one of six players who had to come out at 7:45 a.m. to finish his round. He made a birdie on No. 18 to finish with a 71, then went to his motel, took a nap, watched some football and returned for his afternoon tee time.

He went out fast, with six birdies on the par-35 front nine for a 29, and he admitted he had thoughts of the magical golf number of 59. But he only made one birdie on the three par-5s on the back side and finished with a 35.

"I didn't take advantage on the back side," he said.

As for Sunday, Gutschewski doesn't know what to expect from himself because of his inexperience.

"It will be fun tomorrow," he said. "It could go really good or really bad. I expect to go out and play well. But since I've never been in that situation, I don't know how I'll handle it."

Freeman, a 41-year-old who lives in La Quinta, Calif., has two-second place finishes in his three full seasons on the Nationwide Tour. A victory today would be the highlight of his career, which up to this point was simply playing in a U.S. Open four years ago.

Freeman started slowly Saturday, not making birdies on the first two par-5s, but finished strong with birdies on three of the last four holes.

"I've played well last month and a half, so if I hit it just a little better tomorrow, I have a chance," said Freeman, who believes 21- or 22-under will be the winning score today.

CLASSIC NOTES: Farmington's Boyd Summerhays stands in a tie for 27th at 213 after a 71 Saturday, while Salt Lake pro Henry White stands at 217, following a 75 . . . Todd Demsey, who needed two putts on the 18th hole early Saturday morning to make the cut, got down in two and shot a 70 in the afternoon for a 212 total . . . Logan's Brett Wayment, who needed a birdie on one of the last two holes to make the cut, ended up making bogey on both of his final holes and missed the cut by three.

Classic leaderboard

Scott Gutschewski 65-71-64--200

Jeff Freeman 65-69-66--200

Bobby Gage 67-68-66--201

Zach Johnson 68-69-65--202

Roger Tambellini 71-66-66--203

Mark Hensby 69-66-68--203


Boyd Summerhays 72-70-71--213

Henry White 70-72-75--217

E-mail: sor@desnews.com