PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- One's golf game doesn't come under a more intense spotlight than the back nine in a final round on the TPC Sawgrass PLAYERS Stadium course. But Mark Palmer, playing in the Championship flight of the Golf Channel Am Tour Senior National Championships, delivered a gem.
Palmer, from Winthrop Harbor, Illinois, entered the day leading by one shot, but struggled early on. He double bogeyed the first and played the first ten holes 7-over par.
'I didn't know what was going on,' said Palmer. 'The ball was going left, right, I couldn't make a putt.'
After his round's first back-to-back pars on No. 11 and 12, he went en fuego. Golf Channel's TV crew showed up on the 13th hole just in time to catch the fireworks. Palmer birdied four of the final six holes to win the flight.
'I think the TV cameras that showed up on the par 3 turned me around,' he laughed. 'After that I started swinging well.'
His blistering 33 on the back nine, including chip-in for birdie on the final hole, cemented a 75 and a three-shot win over K.C. Fox. Fox put pressure on Palmer with an eagle on the risk-reward 16th hole, but he bogeyed the 18th, which sealed the deal for Palmer. Coming in third place was Ron Quick, from Murrietta, California, who finished four shots back.
Pete Dye designs apparently fit Palmer's eye. He also won the Midwest Classic at Blackwolf Run, a two-day major tournament, back in May. But the nationals stage is brighter, and his game handled the pressure.
'This [championship] is the top,' said Palmer. 'I've got club championships and some Illinois titles, but this is Nationals.'
Medalist honors in the Championship flight go to Bill Poirier, who birdied the last three holes on the Stadium to shoot an even-par 72. Poirier, from San Diego, finished 7th.
Tony Ott wins the Snead flight
Tony Ott, 65 from West Palm Beach, won the Sr. Snead flight (20-plus handicaps) this morning on the Lagoon course at Ponte Vedra Inn & Club. On the strength of two back nine birdies, he snuck out a one-shot win over Eric Fox from Caro, Michigan.
The action came down to the 72nd hole, but Ott remained cool. He credits it to his philosophy of staying focused one shot at a time.
'I'm a player who does not keep [track of] score,' said Ott. 'So I had no idea about winning [the flight] until the end. There was more luck on the last day than anything. But I kept my composure.'
Ott also wanted to send out his thoughts on behalf of Am Tour this week to Jack Kerivan, who was forced to withdraw prior to the nationals as he is battling cancer. Kerivan is an Am Tour veteran and major winner who won three times this year on the Atlanta tour. He is missed here this week at Sawgrass, and we would all like to send him our best wishes.