It was bunched up for nearly two full days but now the Players Cup at Pine Ridge is down to a one-on-one staredown.
Vince Covello, a 29-year-old native of the Philadelphia area and Chris Killmer, a 25-year-old from Bellingham, Wash., share the lead at 13-under-par 200 heading for today’s final round at Pine Ridge.
It’s almost certainly going to one or the other taking the $24,000 first prize, since the nearest chasers are six shots away through 54 holes.
That trio — Trey Denton of the U.S. and Canadians Matt Makinson and Monday qualifier winner David Lang, all at seven-under — will need career golf and a near miracle to get to the trophy today.
Covello started the third round four shots in arrears of leader Killmer, but going head-to-head, had erased that deficit by the fourth hole on Saturday.
The duo then played steady golf to the finish, getting well ahead of the rest to set up the Sunday showdown.
Both men are gunning for their first Canadian Tour victory and the significant perks that go along with it.
"It’s going to mean a lot," Killmer said, asked about the possibility. "More than the money or anything like that. It’s a chance to win.
"There’s a ton of good golfers out here and to be at the top of them all at the end of the week, it something I’ve dreamt about and I’m really excited to have that opportunity, the opportunity to win."
In the resume department, Covello may possess a slight edge, in particular at Pine Ridge. He led for a good while in 2010 and finished tied for fifth, then was sixth last year.
"Gosh, my first win out here on the Canadian Tour? It would be super nice. I’d be stoked on it. I’ve won five times as a pro now, but never out here. It’s certainly something that was in my goals, that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now.
"Especially at this golf course. I’ve had a couple of looks at it. Another one again this year. I say it every time I’m talking to you guys, you play to get yourself in a spot to win a tournament and here we are."
Covello pulled even on Saturday with a hybrid from 266 yards approaching the par-5 fourth. It stopped 15 feet from the hole and the eagle putt went down from there.
He had to fight back twice more to square before the day was over, including a 15-footer for birdie at the par-4 18th.
"It’s just nice to square the match up before you get to the final round," Covello said. "It should be fun tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. Obviously it looks like it’s between me and Chris now but you never know when somebody’s going to light it up though. You can never count anybody out out here."
Killmer, in his second year on the tour, has been impressively steady as a newcomer. He made eight of 10 cuts last season, including his tie-for-13th at the Players Cup, but has never been higher than 10th.
After he had chipped to a foot on the 18th — a great recovery following his errant iron into the right grandstand — he pulled his hat down over his face.
"Just basically (said) good up and down, just took in the moment," Killmer said. "Looked back on 18, realized that despite what happens tomorrow, I’ve played a great tournament so far and just kind of taking in the moment.
"I think it’s hard to find a moment out here to yourself."
Killmer said he’ll be into match-play mode today.
"Pretty much," he said. "(The others) six back? It’s match play. It’ll just be me and Vince slugging it out. I’ll probably be going first quite a bit since he hits it by me quite a bit. I can either be putting on the pressure or taking it off. Hopefully putting it on.
"And I think we were doing that a bit today."