SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jeff Freeman won the Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament on Friday, shooting his fourth straight 5-under 66 for a four-stroke victory on TPC Scottsdale’s Champions Course.
Freeman, a 49-year-old club professional at the Country Club of Orlando and the 1999 PGA Professional Player of the Year, birdied Nos. 4-8 and shot a 6-under 29 on the front nine.
“Scary day, scary day today,” said Freeman, who earned $30,000. “When you are in these types of situations, if you don’t play well, then you don’t have a tournament to play in. I was scared all day, nervous all day and anxious all day. I just tried to play one shot at a time and get through the darned thing.”
Freeman won’t be eligible to compete on the Champions Tour until mid-April when he turns 50. He had a lengthy career on the Nationwide Tour with 176 starts, playing fulltime in 1994 and again from 2001-06. He also made 18 starts on the PGA Tour, 10 in 2000.
Gary Hallberg and Canadian Jim Rutledge tied for second at 16 under. Hallberg closed with a 68, and Rutledge finished with a 68.
Jeff Hart (67) was fourth at 15 under, and P.H. Horgan III (68) was another stroke back to take the final exempt position – before the reorder – for the 2012 season.
The next seven players are conditionally exempt. In addition, the top 30 finishers and are eligible to compete for spots in open qualifiers at all co-sponsored events.
Jim Carter, Sonny Skinner and Bobby Clampett tied for sixth place, but Carter captured the sixth spot with a birdie on the second playoff hole. It was significant because he will earn a spot as one of the five exempt players until Freeman turns 50 in April. Skinner made a par to finish seventh, and Clampett had a bogey to finish eighth.