2013 Golf Channel Am Tour Crowns Six Senior National Champions At PGA WEST

By Golf Channel Public RelationsOctober 14, 2013, 5:34 pm

Six amateur golfers outlasted their respective Flights to be crowned national champions at the recent 2013 Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships (age 50+) at famed PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.  More than 550 golfers representing 47 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and Canada convened PGA West., Sept. 28-Oct. 1, making it the largest senior national championship field in Am Tour history.

Bob Brooks (Bella Vista, Ark.) held on to claim the Senior Championship Flight, winning by two shots despite a few bumps in the road down the stretch that included triple bogey on nine, a bogey on 15 and a double bogey on 16. In the end, Brooks’ play on the remaining holes was enough to edge out Ron Quick (Murrieta, Calif.) by two shots to win his first national championship.

The Senior Palmer Flight was the lone division that produced a playoff finish, with Ray Henry (Victoria, British Columbia) edging out Bill Foley (Vorore, Tenn.). Henry, 66, who grew up in Portrush, Northern Ireland, shot a final-round 74 to force the playoff on the Palmer Private Course at PGA WEST. On the first playoff hole, Foley’s tee shot landed in a bunker, which opened the door for Henry to seal the victory with a two-putt par.

Randy Hodges (Montgomery, Texas) converted a pressure-packed 10-foot birdie putt on his final hole of the tournament to win the Senior Hogan flight by one shot. The “rookie” of the group, Hodges had never previously played in a four-day tournament prior to this week.  However, that inexperience didn’t deter him from a final-round 77 to win.

The 72-hole national championships served as the Am Tour’s culminating event, contested on four PGA WEST courses: the Palmer Private Course – home to the PGA TOUR’s Humana Challenge – the TPC Stadium Course, Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and Greg Norman Course.

Senior Snead Flight (20+ handicap)

Jim Allard (Dover, N.H.) was one of just three players to finish in the top-10 of the Senior Snead Flight while breaking 100 in all four rounds. However, it was his third-round 83 that propelled him to win by four shots, completing his 13-day, 3,000 mile drive from his home in New Hampshire with a championship.

Allard, 65, took up golf in 2002 after a heart attack derailed his career as an underwater photographer. Allard, who works in the Information Technology industry, started playing the Am Tour in 2006. This was his fifth national championship appearance.

He’s driving a northern route home to New Hampshire, playing another dozen rounds before he reaches home. He has dreams of playing golf in every state. He’s at 36 currently, 11 alone on the trip out to California.

“If all goes as planned, I’ll only have Alaska, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana left,” Allard said.

Senior Jones Flight (16.0-19.9)

Holding a nine-shot lead entering the final round of the Senior Jones Flight, John Scott (Houston, Texas) figured it wouldn’t be as easy as it seemed on paper.

In the end, a final-round 90 on the Stadium course left him five shots clear of the next closest competitor – even without his best golf on display.

“The first two days was like riding a bike,” Scott said. “The last two days was like learning to snow ski when you have never been before. It was like I never hit a mid-iron before.”

The owner of an insurance agency, the 66-year-old started playing golf in college after his baseball practices at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. He played baseball (a second baseman) left-handed, but plays golf right-handed.

On his conservative play with such a big lead, Scott said “I kept it in the fairway and out of the bunkers, and I made some putts.”

Senior Sarazen Flight (12.0-15.9)

With the largest margin of victory among the six Flights in the field, Richard Stein (Cheektowaga, N.Y.) used a final-round 89 on the way to a six-shot win in the Senior Sarazen Flight.

The 55-year-old Stein has finished among the top five in his flight in every tournament he’s played in since joining the Am Tour last year except one. That lone exception, a sixth-place at last year’s national championship, provided motivation throughout his season.

“I have the potential to play well, but I was very inconsistent,” Stein said. “When I started playing on Tour, it re-sparked my interest. I started practicing more. The tour is a great thing. At my age, I’m starting to improve again.”

Stein’s father got him into the game when he was 8 years old. Playing in amateur tournaments while growing up, he even competed against Tiger Woods in the Porter Cup. That experience helped hone his patience on the course – which he needed every bit of after making just one birdie over the span of the week.

“I managed to stay out of trouble and avoid the big number. That’s what did it for me,” Stein said.

Senior Hogan Flight (8.0-11.9)

Saving his best shot for last, Randy Hodges (Montgomery, Texas) sunk a 10-foot birdie putt on his 72nd hole to win the Senior Hogan Flight by one shot.

The Flight proved to be the most competitive of the week, with eight players finishing within six shots of the winning score. The 53-year-old started to feel the nerves of the closely contested leaderboard after taking the lead on the second day, and it continued up until his final round where he was slated in the final group.

“It was tough sleeping,” Hodges said. “We didn’t go out until the last group. There is a lot of sitting around trying not to think about it.”

Hodges bounced back from a shaky 86 in the third round with a 77 on the final day to win the title.

Senior Palmer Flight (4-7.9)

Ray Henry – a Northern-Irishman – won the Senior Palmer Flight in dramatic fashion by virtue of a playoff after firing a final-round 74 on the Private Palmer Course.

Henry faced a double-digit deficit heading into the final round that left him not knowing where he stood after his final-round 74.

“I was a long way behind. I didn’t think I had a chance,” Henry admitted. “I just played very steady all week. I don’t hit it far, so I need to hit it dead straight to keep up with the guys who bomb it 40 yards past me.'

A retired traffic controller, Henry now calls Victoria, British Columbia in Canada home, yet still has a lifetime membership to the famed Royal Portrush in his native Northern Ireland.

“I think all the good Portrush guys are still there. The bad ones moved to Canada,” he said with a laugh. “There have been some good players from there.”

Championship Flight (<3.9)

Despite a few setbacks on his scorecard, Bob Brooks (Bella Vista, Ark.) held on to win the Senior Championship Flight, earning a two-shot victory courtesy of his final-round 74.

A triple-bogey on nine, coupled with a bogey on 15 and a double-bogey on 16 did little to deflate Brooks, who kept his poise down the stretch to provide a fitting end to his first season on the Am Tour.

“Being able to come back with that birdie at 10 showed me that if I just kept my game at the pace I was playing, the guys I was playing with would really have to shoot well to catch me,” Brooks said.

The 56-year-old didn’t take up the game until age 30 after suffering a broken leg during a rugby match. Not wanting to sit around waiting to heal, Brooks began walking nine holes of golf with a cast on his leg.

“I was a little sweaty and sore, but it really benefitted me to learn that way,” he recalled. “It taught me a lot about balance in the swing.”

Photo by Enrique Berardi/LAAC

Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile

By Nick MentaJanuary 21, 2018, 8:44 pm

Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.

The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from what would be a return trip to Augusta National but his first Masters.

"The truth is that I crossed off on my bucket list playing Augusta [National], because I happened to play there," Rivarola said. "I've played every year with my university. But playing in the Masters is a completely different thing. I have been to the Masters, and I've watched the players play during the practice rounds. But [competing would be] a completely different thing."

He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).

Click here for full-field scores from the Latin America Amateur Championship

Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.

“Today, I had a completely different mentality, and that's usually what happens in my case," Niemann said. "When I shoot a bad round, the following day I have extra motivation. I realize and I feel that I have to play my best golf. The key to being a good golfer is to find those thoughts and to transfer them into good golf."

Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.

Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.

Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.

The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.

Getty Images

McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

Getty Images

Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

Getty Images

Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.