Seniors Leading the Way

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PGA of AmericaPORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Three seniors and a 48-year-old won quarterfinal matches Saturday in the 40th annual PGA Match Play Championship at the PGA Golf Club.
 
Leading the way into the semifinals Sunday was two-time former champion Rick Vershure of Armonk, N.Y. Vershure, who turned 50 two weeks ago, beat Rob Labritz of Fairfield, Conn., 3 and 1. Vershure won the Match Play in 1990 and 1993.
 
In other results, all on the Dye course, Bob Ralston, 53, of Little Rock, Ark., ousted Allen Santos of Lowell, Mass., and Steve Heckel, 56, of Carterville, Ill., beat Sam Olson of Redding, Conn., both by 2 and 1; and Chris Campbell, 48, of Vero Beach, edged Frank Dully of Salem, Mass., 1-up.
 
In the semifinals Sunday, Vershure plays Campbell at 8 a.m., and at 8:09, it will be Heckel against Ralston. The winners meet for the championship at 8 a.m. Monday. The champion will earn $4,500, the runnerup $2,800, from the $52,130 prize fund.
 
Vershure, head professional at Quaker Ridge Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y., took advantage of five three-putt greens by Labritz and some of his own swing changes. 'I'm making a lot of changes,' Vershure said. 'I'm making some goofy swings but I am also making some that are really good.' Labritz was 2-up after six holes but Vershure won the seventh with par, the ninth and 10th with birdies, then lost the 12th to Labritz' birdie. Vershure won the 13th and 14th, lost the 15th but won the 16th and 17th with pars to end the match.
 
Campbell, head professional at Vista Plantation, was three under par, taking a 2-up lead when he holed a 30-foot chip shot from short and left of the 15th green and sank a 10 footer for birdie at the 16th. Dully birdied the 17th from 15 feet but they halved the 18th with pars. 'I'm hitting the ball so well, just not missing any shots,' Campbell said. 'I hit all the fairways and 18 greens Friday,' in the fifth round 'and at least 16 greens today.'
 
Ralston, a teaching professional at Burns Park Golf Club, and Santos swapped the lead several times on the first 11 holes and the match was still even through the 14th. Then Santos hit his drive into a marshy area off the 15th tee and also bogeyed the 16th, giving Ralston a 2-up lead. The match ended when they halved the 17th with pars.
 
Heckel, pro-owner of the Crab Orchard Golf Club, is recovering from chronic tendonitis in both hands. 'I just started playing again Jan. 6,' at the start of the PGA Winter Tournament Program, he said. 'I'm getting stronger every day but I never expected anything like this. I'm just glad to be playing golf again. I couldn't play at all here last year.'
 
The Match Play is the sixth and final championship of the PGA Winter Tournament Program.
 
Saturday's results:
 
Steve Heckel, Carterville, Ill., d. Sam Olson, Redding, Conn., 2 and 1.
Bob Ralston, Little Rock, Ark., d. Allen Santos, Lowell, Mass., 2 and 1.
Rick Vershure, Armonk, N.Y., d. Rob Labritz, Fairfield, Conn., 3 and 1.
Chris Campbell, Vero Beach, d. Frank Dully II, Salem, Mass., 1-up.