At age 26, Patty Price certainly isn't an oldtimer. In fact she's probably younger than 90 percent of the women at the City Parks Open.

Yet Price was crediting her age and experience as a factor in her even-par 73 Wednesday at Mountain Dell Golf Course. The 73 gave Price a 3-shot lead over four-time champion Marcia Thayne, Laurie Wolfe and Sharon Probst, going into Thursday's final 18 holes."It has something to do with age,"she said. "I've got experience and I'm more confident playing with the younger players."

Price, who works as the Recreation Coordinator for Salt Lake City Parks and Recreation, has finished second on more than one occasion in the City Parks but has never fired a round like the one Wednesday. In fact her best score at Mountain Dell had been a 75 on Sunday.

Consistency was Price's best assest as she made 14 pars and a pair of birdies and bogeys. But that doesn't tell the story of how well she played.

"I knocked it stiff today," she said. "If I would have putted better on the back nine I could have had a career round."

After making the turn at even par with a bogey at 6 and a birdie at 8, Price heated up, hitting to within 5 feet at No. 10, 7 feet at No. 11 and 3 feet at No. 12 where her chip shot hit the pin. Incredibly she also hit the pin at 14 and 15, leaving her with 3-foot putts. However, she didn't sink any of those close putts.

Price bogeyed the 16th, before closing her round with a 2-putt birdie at the par-5 18th.

"I'm playing golf more for fun now. I used to feel like I had to play," said Price. "Now I golf once or twice a week and never practice. I can't tell you the last time I hit a bucket of balls."

Thayne, whose last victory here was in 1979, kept herself in contention with her 3-over-par effort that included a 40 on the front and a 36 on the back. Wolfe, a former runnerup here, who won last week's Davis Invitational, went 39-37, as did Probst.

Virginia Undhjem of Idaho and Joyce Billings both stood at 77, a stroke better than Joni Malin at 78. Lachell Simmons and Joan Lally both had 80s, while defending champion Starla Yamada and Claudia Nielsen were both at 81.

Yamada had the best front nine of anyone with a 2-under-par 35. But she blew up with a double-bogey 6 at No. 16 followed by a disastrous 10 at the par-4 17th. The 46 on the back left Yamada 8 shots back of Price.

Flight leaders included Jeanne Morris, Sandra Fitzgerald, Nadine Babcock, Elma Larsen, Renee Atkin and Renee Nelson.