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Erie native Andrew Pratt fired a 2-under-par 70 Saturday at the Peek’n Peak’s upper course to take the 54-hole lead in the Nationwide Tour’s Peek’n Peak Classic.

FINDLEY LAKE, N.Y. — On Wednesday, for the first time in about two decades, Andrew Pratt visited the Erie home in which he spent the first six years of his life.

“I remembered a lot of stuff,” said Pratt, whose Tennessee accent tells you where he’d spent the following 20 years. “Obviously, it’s gotten older, just as everything. But I remembered the churches and schools, and the Dairy Queen that we used to go to — imagine that.”

Three days after that trip down memory lane, Pratt was making some new memories near his old hometown. And this time, they could earn him a lot more than an ice cream cone.

With a birdie on the 18th hole, Pratt turned in a 2-under-par 70 after the third round of play at the Nationwide Tour’s Peek’n Peak Classic. And now, heading into today’s final round, Pratt is in the lead with a 56-hole total of 8-under-par 208 and hunting down that first-place prize of $100,800.

“The front side, I was making a lot of putts,” said Pratt about his round on Saturday. “On the back side, I didn’t hit it as well. I kind of struggled on the par-3’s a little bit. But to make birdie on 18, that makes it a lot better.”

Pratt — who was followed around by a number of family and friends from the Buffalo-Niagara area — birdied three of his first four holes before settling into a stretch of pars. Two bogeys on the back nine had Pratt down to 7-under, and he headed into the clubhouse amidst a four-way tie for the lead. But with a short birdie roll on 18, Pratt stepped out from the crowd.

That left Kyle Thompson, John Merrick and Craig Bowden one stroke back and tied for second place at 7-under 209.

Thompson’s 4-under 68 was tied for the lowest round of the day on Saturday. In fact, only eight players scored under 70 as Peek’n Peak’s Upper Course showed its teeth.

However, Thompson — a Florida native in his fourth year on the Nationwide Tour — coped by using a strong short game.

“I pretty much hit every green, was barely off the edge of the green (on some holes),” he said.

But Thompson, like the rest of the field, would then have to deal with the Peak’s tricky Poana grass.

“It has been scary,” he said, “but putts just haven’t been going in … I’m hitting a lot of putts right where I’m looking, but on these greens the ball kind of bumps around some.”

Merrick — a Nationwide Tour rookie — fought off some any-which-way winds to card a 3-under 69 and move into a tie for second.

“It was tough out there,” he said. “The wind was blowing more than the first couple days, so it was tough trying to pick a club.”

Bowden, with his 1-under 71, also struggled with the Peak’s swirling winds.

“The wind played havoc out there,” said the veteran pro, who has two Nationwide tournament victories on his resume. “It was kind of all over the place and tough to read at times. But I had a good day. I played solid. I missed some putts down the stretch that really kind of hurt, because I’m really curious about the weather (on Sunday).”

There is a danger of today’s round being washed out. Today’s forecast calls for a 40-percent chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms, especially early in the day.

That would be a big disappointment for the numerous golfers that are still very much in the hunt after the third round. Among them is Tom Scherrer, Gavin Coles, Charlie Wi and Jason Dufner, who are tied for fifth at 6-under 210.

Chris Anderson and Peter Tomasulo are only three strokes off the pace, tied for ninth at 5-under 211. Following them are 12 more golfers at 4-under 212.

The first tee time for today’s round is 7 a.m. Pratt and Thompson are scheduled to tee off at 11:40 a.m.



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