DePinto rides local knowledge to victory in the Golf Channel Am Tour senior nationals

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LA QUINTA, Calif. – Vincent DePinto rode all sorts of home-game advantages to victory at the Golf Channel Am Tour senior national championships.

DePinto, who lives a mile away from tournament host PGA West, has played the tournament’s four courses plenty of times. He understands how to handle the awkward lies in the Bermuda rough, and his body is acclimated to the dry heat of the California desert. Sleeping in his own bed didn’t hurt, either.

DePinto won the Senior Sarazen flight (for handicaps 12-15.9) with steady play all week. His final-round 84 on Monday on the Nicklaus Tournament Course led to a four-day, 72-hole of 330, one better than Canadian Mike Murphy of Mississauga, Ont.

“I didn’t do anything super brilliant,” he said. “For us hackers – we are not the Championship flight – consistency is very important. … My short game was good all week. I had a lot of ups and downs for par.”

DePinto birdied four holes in the first round, chipping in twice, for a 78. Rounds of 85 and 83 gave him a three-shot lead heading into the final round.  Nursing a two-shot lead on the final hole, DePinto hit a nice drive, and instead of challenging the water, laid up and pitched on for a simple bogey. He only made two triples all week.

“On the Stadium, Nicklaus Tournament and Palmer Private courses – there are places just waiting for a triple bogey," he said. "You have to limit the big numbers.”

SMITH SLAMS THE SENIOR PALMER FIELD

Al Smith went low on the weekend to win the Senior Palmer flight (for handicaps between 4.0-7.9). The resounding nine-shot margin of victory wasn’t indicative of what transpired early in Monday’s final round at the Palmer Private Course.

Eventual runner-up Craig Ostrom birdied the first hole and eagled the second to cut Smith’s four-stroke overnight lead to one.

“Either I could fold or keep making par,” Smith said.

He rallied to shoot his second straight one-under-par round of 71 to finish at 297 over the four rounds, nine shots clear of Ostrom.    

Smith, who lost by two strokes in the Palmer flight at nationals last year, said replacing a three-hybrid with a seven-wood over the weekend was a catalyst for his low rounds. “I didn’t miss a shot with it,” he said. “It came in handy on the long approaches. This was a tough win. There was a lot of grinding.”