Trio in contention for Assistant's title


Devonian Kevin Harper remains on course to finally land the Powerade PGA Assistants' Championship in association with FootJoy title - but not without a fight.

The Sidmouth assistant, who has finished second the past two years and has stressed his determination to win on his third and final appearance, saw his grip at the top ease after a second round level par 72 at East Sussex National saw the overnight leader joined on five-under-par by Didsbury's Tom Murray, who shot a best-of-the-day 68.

Despite failing to improve on his first round tally of 67, Harper is content to remain in the driving seat and is full of confidence ahead of the final day shootout, which sees just one other player under par - Rothley Park's defending champion Matthew Cort, who sits a shot off the pace after a second round 71.

Harper, a former PGA Europro Tour No 1, said: "It was a little trickier out there today as the wind is a little stronger and the course was set up harder with some difficult pin positions.

"I played well and hit 16 greens but it was a similar story to yesterday as I feel I left putts out there and should be way ahead.

"But I'm right where I want to be after my round. It's a good opportunity for me as I've given myself a chance to win it in my last year.

"I will give it really good shot and if play like I have the past two days I'm going to be close."

Joint leader Murray, son of former European Tour winner Andrew Murray, is making his debut in the tournament having kept his power dry for the previous two years.

"I seemed to have other things on that have clashed with it in the past," said Murray, who booked his place in the championship by topping his qualifier at Penwortham.

"I should have put it as a priority I guess as a first and second year assistant but I didn't realise the quality of the tournament until I got down here, so I regret not entering until now."

However, after opening with a 71, he had no regrets after returning a flawless effort that was comfortably the best tally of the day.

He said: "I'm very happy with that score. It was bogey free and in that wind it's impressive I would say.

"Anything in the 60s has been my thought for each round from the start. I've had one and had a 71 first day so another 68 tomorrow would be nice as I absolutely think I can challenge the favourites. I feel as confident as anyone here."

Cort, the final serious contender, was left to rue a bogey at the ninth, his final hole, which cost him being co-leader ahead of the final round.

"It was tough with the wind today," said Cort. "I hit some good stuff but I bogeyed the last which has dampened the mood.

"I'm one off the lead and that's nothing. I wasn't hitting it that great, just solid. To make a couple of birdies on the inward nine was pleasing I'm just disappointed to have messed up at the last."

As a result, Cort will go out in the group ahead of the joint leaders but he thinks that could play into his hands.

"I know Kevin wants to win it as it's his last go so he'll be up for it and I don't know much about Tom," he said.

"But I won't be in the last group and sometimes that's a good thing as they'll be watching each other and if I can get off to a start similar to last year then it won't be a problem."

The trio are the only three players under par with Cort having a four-shot cushion to fourth placed Cennydd Mills (Ridgeway), who carded a second successive level par.

Matt Spencer, who began the day in second at four-under, found the going much tougher as he posted 83 to slip to a share of 28th.

The top 40 and ties made the cut, with nine-over and better making the grade.

The winner of the championship, which concludes tomorrow, secures a place in the end-of-season Titleist PGA Play-Offs.

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