Purcell makes up ground as Ulenaers holds firm to take a seven shot lead on debut

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Purcell makes up ground as Ulenaers holds firm to take a seven shot lead on debut

Conor Purcell (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images)

Conor Purcell continued his progress on Saturday at the Challenge de Cádiz as he carded a moving day 68 to move just outside the top 25 in Spain.

Purcell, who was the only Irish player to make the halfway cut carded 6 birdies in the impressive display.

At the top Kristof Ulenaers will take a seven-stroke lead into the final round after posting a sensational round of 67 to move one step closer to claiming a maiden European Challenge Tour victory on debut.

The Belgian posted consecutive rounds of 65 at Iberostar Real Club de Golf Novo Sancti Petri and carded a fine 67 on moving day to finish at   19 under, seven shots clear of Germany’s Hurly Long in second on 12 under par.

The 22-year-old showed no signs of nerves with three birdies in his opening six holes and only made one blemish in his round at the par five eighth hole, before bouncing back with a brilliant back nine of 33, including an eagle at the 13. The University of North Texas graduate went on to par the last five holes and secure the lead for the third consecutive day.

“I felt much less nervous today,” he said. “I started the round in a much calmer way and just went about my routine and had a good night’s sleep. It was my first time leading a Challenge Tour event so I was a bit nervous yesterday. I had more fun today and enjoyed every second of it out there.”

“Once the birdies started rolling in the beginning, I felt more and more comfortable and eventually the eagle putt I made on 13 turned my round into what it was. I made some great up and downs to save par towards the end to shoot five under and I am really happy with my score today.”

Ulenaers admits it would be a dream come true to maintain his lead in Cádiz and secure a remarkable victory at his first Challenge Tour event since turning professional.

“To win this tournament would mean a lot to me. Honestly, I couldn’t even dream of it a week ago to be standing here doing an interview surrounded by cameras and going into the final day leading by seven shots. It’s  special.

“I do not know how I am going to be feeling tomorrow yet, I will have dinner and see how I feel after that. We will get into the final round and see how it goes. Maybe it will sink in and become reality tonight that I am actually doing something really good and hopefully I can turn my dream into a reality tomorrow.”

Germany’s Alexander Knappe sits two shots back in third  on ten under, while Sweden’s Anton Karlsson and Scotsman Ewen Ferguson share fourth  on nine under par. The final round of the Challenge de Cádiz will get under way at 8am local time. Ulenaers will be joined in the final group by German duo  Long and Knappe at 12:30pm.

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