Senior Am Tour Players Crowned
There were four ecstatic flight winners in the Senior Amateur Championship event held in the Sandhills Tuesday and Wednesday, but the three biggest winners may have been the host courses.
Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club, National Golf Club and Seven Lakes Country Club drew rave reviews from the more than 200 players who competed in the event.
Jim Gallagher is a former Air Force pilot from Yorktown, Va., who spent 27years flying for his country. But he was probably never higher off the ground than when he received the trophy for his victory in the Championship Flight where he took down two former champions.
Gallagher, whose two rounds were played at Pine Needles and Seven Lakes, shot 71-73—144.
“Those are two pretty good tracks,” he said. “Almost any course you play in this area is gonna be a good golf course, but to play the two I played is really special. I’m going to take these score cards home and hang them on my wall.”
Gallagher plays to a handicap of +2.6 and also plays on the Golfweek Amateur Tour. He is playing on the Senior Amateur for the second year.
Former senior national champion Dennis Brady of Orlando, Fla., held the first-round lead with a 70, but finished second after a 76. Tom Cone of Charlotte and Rick Luzar of Pinehurst tied for third, both with 148.
Mark Toloso of Haughton, La., won Flight A with 79-77—156, but had to do it the hard way, in a playoff against Jeff Jordan of Hilton Head, S.C.
Toloso didn’t pick up a flight win during the regular season, but made the most of his chances in rounds at National and Pine Needles.
“I love this tour,” Toloso said,” and these golf courses are great. I was fortunate enough to make a birdie in the playoff and beat Jeff.”
And why wasn’t Jordan able to answer back? “Well, when you put the ball in somebody’s backyard up against a wall, it’s kind of tough to make birdie,” Jordan said. “You ever heard of golf in the pines?”
“We were playing together and it was a good match,” Toloso said. “It came down to a few putts here and there. It was hard. It was a joy, but it was tiring.
“I’m from Louisiana and these hills are awesome, but they’re foreign to me.”
Tommy Williams, a member of the Mississippi tour, made up a four-shot deficit on the second day to win Flight B, shooting 84-77—161 and finishing three strokes ahead of runner-up Tim Sobitz of Orlando, Fla.
“This is first thing I’ve won since 1973,” the proud Williams said as he clutched his trophy. “This really means a lot to me.”
Two Charlotte golfers finished 1-2 in Flight C, with Larry Hinson nipping Van Storie and two others by a stroke, 170-171. The two entered the final round tied at 86, but Hinson shot 84 to take the title with 170, while Storie, Lee Davidson of Kentucky and Len Benedetti of Orlando shared second.
The team competition came down to the two C flight scores to determine the Cup winner.
Charlotte won for the fourth consecutive year, aided by Hinson and Storie, who posted good C flight scores. Charlotte was three shots back to the Raleigh/Pinehurst team, but made up that ground and won by nine.
Tour sponsors Grand Lucayan Resort Bahamas and Vision Airlines offered an all-expenses paid trip for two for any hole-in-one made during the tournament.
Since no competitor made an ace they gave the trip away in a drawing and Len McAlister from Charlotte won it.
This is the 13th year of the Senior Amateur, which caters to golfers 50 and older, and tour founder and director Dennis McCormac is still amazed at the success it has attained.
“It really has grown beyond our expectations,” he said. “It’s now in 15 states, and we have about 800 players. We had almost 220 players here this week. When Bruce (Hallenbeck) and I started it back when, I think we had 45 guys in our first Tour Championship.
“It’s really a pleasure to be around these guys and see how excited they are about winning. It truly is. Bruce and I talk about it all the time. We have a good product, but it’s their enjoyment of the product that makes it special.
“It’s not only the great competition, but the great camaraderie. These guys are from all over — Louisiana, Virginia and Tennessee — and they know each other. It’s not just the competition they enjoy, but also meeting old friends.”
One thing that makes the tour so popular is that all the flights are competitive.
“We take the integrity of these flights very much to heart,” McCormac said. “If you’re a golfer who shoots 80, we will keep everyone in your bracket shooting around 80.
“That integrity showed up this week with every flight having the top 30 guys within six shots of the winner.”
McCormac plans on continuing to bring the Tour Championship to the Pinehurst area for the foreseeable future.
“This is the favorite place we’ve hosted it,” he said. “This is old traditional golf and, in my opinion, golf Meccca. I truly love Pinehurst.”
Contact Howard Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org
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