LOUISVILLE — Brandon Brown, the hottest golfer on the Hooters Tour, hasn't cooled off a bit since coming home to play in the 92nd Powerbilt Kentucky Open championship at Persimmon Ridge this week.
Brown, who's won three Hooters events this year and is the tour's top money winner with $115,600, looks good for another first-place check.
After shooting 67-69 for an 8-under total the first two days at Persimmon Ridge, Brown has a six-shot lead going into Thursday's final round.
His closest challengers are pros Jesse Mudd (69-73) and Blake Watts (65-77).
Former UK golfer Andrew Stephens is tied for fourth with Lexington Christian Academy grad Hunter Stewart, Ryan Britt, Nicklaus Newcomb and Jerry Price.
Brown could have teed it up in a Hooters tournament in Georgia this week, "but I wanted to come back and play in our Open," he said.
"I'm 20 minutes from home (Shelbyville), so I could stay in my own bed and hang out with family and friends.
"I had high expectations coming in here and thought my chances were good after finishing second last year.
"There are a lot of big names on the trophy and I'm hoping to put mine on there."
Brown was about the only guy who survived a course that played much tougher than it did Tuesday.
Watts, a Louisville club pro from New Albany, Ind., followed up a first-round 65 with a 77. How to explain the dozen-shot difference?
"I didn't drive it as well and didn't make a putt," he said. "(Tuesday) was such an epiphany. Everything felt easy. Today was challenging and frustrating."
Tyler Sharpe, an amateur from Greensburg who had a solid 68 in the first round, struggled to a 76 to fall eight shots off the lead.
Louisville pro Nick Atzinger went 70-78, and Elizabethtown amateur Stephen Montgomery went 71-78.
Brown credited his work on the greens for his terrific play this year. He switched to a left hand-low putting grip in May "and it's really worked well.
"And I've grown up the last year and a half mature-wise, and that's been big for me.
"But more than anything is believing in myself."
Brown has never had such a big lead going into a final round. "But I'll just keep doing what I'm doing, being patient, and hope it'll be enough."
Massie, also an EKU alum, got to four-under for the tournament before frittering away a couple of shots down the stretch. He knows catching Brown won't be easy. Massie has played some on the Hooters Tour and witnessed Brown's torrid play.
"He's on one of those rolls and can't miss, and he's gotta keep going with it," Massie said.
Britt, another EKU alum, had the best round of the day. He birdied seven of his last 14 holes to shoot a 68.
Thanks to recent rain and watering, Persimmon Ridge isn't playing as dry or as difficult as it did for the 2002 Kentucky Open. Grant Sturgeon won that year with a 1-over total of 217.
Sturgeon was in the field this week, but shot 75-82 to miss the cut by four shots.