Strong Finish: Cone Earns Senior Am Title, Luzar Second
Tom Cone knows how to finish a golf tournament.
The 52-year-old Cone, making his second appearance in the Senior Amateur Tour Championship, closed his round at Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club with an eagle on the 15th hole, a birdie on 17 and a par-saving putt from eight feet on the final hole to stave off a hungry Rick Luzar, of Pinehurst, by a stroke in the Championship Flight.
Cone, a regional manager for the Chili’s Restaurant franchises in the Concord-Charlotte area, was making only his second appearance in the event. He shot 71-73—144 while Luzar shot 70-75—45 to finish second by a shot for the second consecutive year.
“I drove the ball well and putted well both days,” Cone said. “I couldn’t have putted any better.”
The first round of the tournament was played at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club and Cone played even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He started the day one stroke behind Luzar and was still trailing going into the par-5 15th at Mid Pines where he reached the green in two shots and holed the putt for eagle to get even.
He took the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on 17, then closed it out with the par on the tough par-4 18th.
“I was playing with Rick and knew exactly what I had to do,” Cone said. It’s really satisfying when you make a putt that you know you have to have.”
Cone qualified for the North Carolina Amateur this past summer, but missed the cut.
“I’m kind of in that dead zone between the regular players and the seniors,” said. “There are a lot of good players on this tour, but for some reason there seems to be less pressure on me out here.”
The win was especially sweet for Cone. “My son, Trevor, has won a couple of tournaments at Mid Pines,” he said. “So it was nice to win where he has won.
“This tour plays great courses and the competition is very good. “That’s the thing for me. At this age, golf is one of the few things at which you can remain competitive.”
Luzar has reached the point that he’d just like to win the tour championship anywhere. A retired dentist who is a member at Forest Creek Golf Club, Luzar enjoys the Senior Tour despite the near misses.
“They really do a professional job of running this tour,” he said. “I’ve been a member for two years since moving here from Florida and I’ve really enjoyed the competition.
“The front nine killed me today, but you have to give Tom credit. He made the shots when he had to.”
Jim Gallagher, of the Tidewater, Va., tour, finished third at 146. Dennis Brady and Bill Foster, both of Orlando, Fla., tied for fourth with 147. Foster had opened with a 68 at Pine Needles to hold the lead after the first round on Tuesday.
Alan Dirk, of Sanford, was ninth with 77-75—152.
Brent Massey, of Raleigh, took a three-shot lead with 75 in the first round and hung on to shoot 155 and win Flight A by two over Sonny Branning, of the Mississippi Tour, and Ernie Timmerman, of Augusta, Ga.
Denny Miller, of Charleston, S.C., parred the first hole of a playoff to take Flight B after he and Mike Johnson, of Raleigh, had tied at 156. Johnson rallied from an 84 to shoot 72 on the final day and force the playoff
Randy Woodard, of Augusta, won Flight C with 168, rallying from an opening score of 88 with an 80 that bested Mac Geddie, of Charlotte, by two strokes.
John Henely and Bill Wilkinson, of the Pinehurst Tour, tied for fourth at 174. Al Tobin, of Pinehurst, was tied for seventh with 176.
The Tour Championship, for which players qualify on points accumulated during the season-long competition, drew a field of 229 golfers and was contested at Pine Needles, Mid Pines and National Golf Club.
“I never thought this tour would reach this size when he formed it 13 years ago,” said Tour Director Dennis McCormac. “I thought it just be in the Carolinas, But we had players here from as far away as Louisiana.
The Charlotte Tour won the team competition with score of 1276.
Contact Howard Ward at email@example.com.
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