PALM HARBOR — There were big crowds and fans coming out of nowhere to cheer him on Saturday, but there was no home course advantage for Nick Gabrelcik.
The local 20-year-old amateur, who has played here for the past six years, said the Copperhead Course played like nothing he’s seen before. He shot 3-over-par 74 in the third round of the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort — but still left the course thrilled with the experience.
“We just didn’t judge the wind right,” Gabrelcik said after his round. “A lot of the times today I was just missing in bad spots and not converting from there and it was just a grind.
“But it’s okay. We still had fun out there.”
Gabrelcik and his family, based about 20 minutes from here in Trinity, have become one of the stories of the week.
The University of North Florida junior, whose brother and caddy this weekend, Donnie, is an assistant pro at Innisbrook, was given a last-minute exemption to get into his first PGA Tour event. He shot 4 under in the second round to make the cut, and the galleries around him grew as his story got out.
Saturday, he had about 40 to 50 friends and family following him and a lot more fans, but that has been a good learning experience.
“Today was the first day I wasn’t nervous on the first tee,” he said.
Gabrelcik parred his first three holes, bogeyed No. 4, then had double bogey on 5.
“An uncommitted swing … went in the right trees and then tried to hit a low punch out and hit it too low, got caught in the rough and then had a really bad line, could barely advance it,” Gabrelcik said. “And then knocked the next one up there. Thought I hit a good chip but it didn’t release far enough through the rough and then two-putt it for double.
“So that was that one that hurt.”
Gabrelcik birdied Nos. 6 and 9 to make the turn at 1 over and bogeyed 10, 12 and 13. He birdied 14.
The Mitchell High graduate has one more year of college and then hopes to be out full time on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve tried to take some notes as much as I could about how (the pros) warm up and how they just do their own things and how I can implement some of their stuff here and there,” Gabrelcik said. “Even on the course, like how they approach things first because I play really fast and Tour pros don’t play super fast.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Tommy Fleetwood, 32, has won professional tournaments around the world — but not here. The English golfer heads into Sunday with one of his best chances to finally win a tournament in the U.S.; he was one shot back (7 under overall) of leader Adam Schenk.
“I’ve always loved playing all around the world. I enjoy coming to work on the PGA Tour. I love playing golf over here. I love the standard of golf over here,” he said. “I’ve had my chances before and it’s not happened for me, but I think I’ve got a lot of events left in me and I don’t plan on winning once; I would like to win multiple, multiple times. When my day comes that will be great. Hopefully it’s (Sunday).
“But I think putting myself into contention more often and like I have done playing late last week on Sunday, I’ll be out late on Sunday (this week) and I think that’s the first step to winning, putting yourself in contention,” Fleetwood continued. “Then we’ll go from there. But, yeah, I would love to get my first win out here and then push on from there. I’m excited about the challenge again and we’ll see.”
Fleetwood was one of three golfers Saturday — along with Patton Kizzire and Doc Redman — who did not have a bogey in the difficult conditions.