Ahead by four as the final round began, Sipula, 32, an assistant professional at Edgewood Country Club, saw his lead shrink to one after four holes before a two-stroke swing at the eighth pushed him comfortably in front again and his lead was never less than three strokes the rest of the way.
'With the wind, it was a struggle the first few holes,' Sipula said. 'It seemed like it was mostly a cross wind and it was hard to judge. I hit a lot of good shots but the wind caught some of them.'
Westerly winds gusting more than 25 miles an hour and temperatures in the 50s caused havoc most of the afternoon and only one player broke 70 all day. Fellow New Jersey pro Peter Busch of Scotch Plains shot 69 and he had started more than five hours earlier than Sipula.
Sipula's playing partners, Steve Schneiter of Sandy, Utah, and Ed Sabo of Tequesta, tied for second at 284 on final round scores of 73 and 75. Bob Ralston of Little Rock, Ark., and Mike Zinni of Mankato, Minn., each matched par-72 and tied for fourth with 285s.
'This is the biggest tournament I've even won,' Sipula said. 'Not the most money but the most prestigious.' It was also his first win in PGA of America competition and he earned $5,185 from the $89,000 purse.
The Stroke Play is the fourth of six national championships staged here by the PGA of America as part of its Winter Tournament Program. Still to come is the Match Play on the adjacent Dye course Monday through Feb. 4 and the Women's Stroke Play Monday through Wednesday at the nearby PGA Country Club.
Sipula's lead began to disappear almost immediately as he bogied the first and fourth holes and Sabo birdied the second from 25 feet. All three birdied the par-5 sixth, playing mostly downwind. Schneiter made up two strokes with a short birdie putt at the par-3 seventh as both Sipula and Sabo bogied. Sipula sank a 20 footer to birdie the eighth as Sabo and Schneiter bogied and suddenly the lead was three again and the winner was virtually unchallenged the rest of the way.
Suzy Whaley of Farmington, Conn., was low among three women who advanced past the 36-hole cut. She closed with 73 for 301, tied for 75th. Whaley qualified for the Greater Hartford Open in July by winning the Connecticut PGA Section Championship last September. She is the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event.
The top 25 on the money list::
278 - Tom Sipula, River Vale, N.J., 67-69-69-73. $5,185.
284 - Steve Schneiter, Sandy, Utah, 74-67-70-73. Ed Sabo, Tequesta, 68-71-70-75. $2,790.
285 - Mike Zinni, Mankato, Minn., 75-70-68-72. Bob Ralston, Little Rock, Ark., 74-70-69-72. $2,170.
287 - Steve Mulcahy, Lima, Ohio, 73-71-72-71. John Hickson, West Brook, Maine, 74-71-68-74. $1,760.
288 - Frank Bensel, Purchase, N.Y., 71-70-76-71. Ron Faria, Hempstead, N.Y., 71-69-72-76. $1,395.
290 - Lonnie Nielsen, East Aurora, N.Y., 69-75-72-74. Rob Labritz, Fairfield, Conn., 74-68-74-74. Frank Dobbs, Port St. Lucie, 72-74-69-75. $1,290.
291 - Kevin Burton, Boise, Idaho, 78-70-71-72. Kirk Hanefeld, Westford, Mass., 74-71-71-75. Brian Gaffney, Westfield, N.J., 72-74-69-76. $1,215.
292 - John Guyton, Purchase, N.Y., 74-77-70-71. Chip Johnson, North Scituate, Mass., 74-72-72-74. Bruce Zabriski, Jupiter, 74-75-68-75. Jerry Impellittiere, New Windsor, N.Y., 72-72-73-75. Terry Hatch, Pottsville, Pa., 75-71-70-76. Mike Tucker, St. Louis, Mo., 74-71-71-76. $1,099.17.
293 - Frank Dully II, Salem, Mass., 73-73-72-75. Shelby Lowman, Greenwich, Conn., 73-73-72-75. Brendon Post, Herndon, Va., 76-68-74-75. Mike San Filippo, Hobe Sound, 76-69-72-76. $968.75.