Kenneth Staton of Ormond Beach, Fla. sank a three-foot birdie putt on the final hole to card a 5-under-par 67, ending the 36-hole event at 10-under, one shot better than Australias Nathan Green. Doug McGuigan (Langley, BC) wound up in third spot, two strokes back.
For the 28-year-old Staton, it was his second win of the season, although the Niagara Classic is considered an unofficial event on the Canadian Tour schedule. He won the MTS Classic in Winnipeg back in July, and to date has three official tournament titles, as well as another three unofficial crowns, in his four-year Tour career. Staton will attend the PGAs Qualifying School beginning in October, and conceded that his recent play has helped boost his game to the level that will be needed next month.
I know people like to call this a developmental Tour, but I dont consider it a stepping stone at all, said the former NCAA All-American. During the year, this is how I make my living, and this Tour gives you the chance to maintain your game while improving the things you need to against top competition. It feels good to win any golf tournament, but this should give me momentum this heading into Q-school.
Green, 26, actually had a chance to send it into a playoff, which would have been the sixth tournament to go into extra holes in what has been a wild Canadian Tour season, but he lipped out his 12-foot attempt. Seconds earlier, Staton had nailed his second shot, a 5-wood from 232 yards out on the 519-yard, par-5 18th hole, that came to rest at the back of the green, 15 feet from the cup. Greens second shot went right, landing in a greenside bunker.
I played better today than I have in recent weeks, but I just came up one shot short, said Green. But you have to give Ken credit-he made the shots when he needed to coming in, and that made the difference.
With Green hitting first from the 18th fairway, Staton knew he had a chance to win in regulation when he saw the ball flare right.
The ball was in Nathans court, and when he hit it right I just wanted to give myself a chance at eagle. For some reason, when I am under pressure, I seem to hit clutch shots, and that is what happened again today.
Staton seems to have a flair for the dramatic. In Winnipeg earlier this summer, he hit his final-hole approach from 170 yards out to within three feet to edge Mark Slawter (Raleigh, N.C.) by a shot.
It was the third time in as many years that the tournament was decided on the 18th green. In the initial Niagara Classic back in 1999, Arden Knoll (Kelowna, BC) defeated Jason Bohn (Atlanta, Ga.) in a playoff, while Victorias Jim Rutledge held off Brian Payne of Chicago, Ill. on the final hole a year ago.
Sundays final round marked the end of the 2001 Canadian Tour schedule. The Panasonic Panama Open kicks off the 2002 campaign in January.
Full-field scores from the Niagra Classic