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Wiebe wins playoff to end Champions Tour drought

CONOVER, North Carolina – Mark Wiebe parred the third playoff hole following a weather delay and won the Greater Hickory Classic on Sunday when James Mason missed a four-foot par putt.

Wiebe earned his first Champions Tour title since 2008 in a bizarre finish that included a delay following the first extra hole at Rock Barn. Mason, a Monday qualifier, three-putted from 20 feet to end his chances of earning a one-year playing exemption on the tour.

In a tournament played in intense heat that yielded a 54-hole Champions Tour record 1,147 birdies, both players birdied the 18th in regulation to finish at a tournament-best 19 under. That moved them past clubhouse leader Fred Funk, who shot 62 and finished in a share of third with Chip Beck.

The 53-year-old Wiebe, who shot a 7-under 65 in regulation, ended a 77-tournament winless streak.

For the 60-year-old Mason, it was a heartbreak finish to what was nearly a career-changing week.

Mason, whose last win came in 2002, was playing in his first Champions Tour event of the year. He had lost his playing privileges and was 0 for 5 in qualifiers until he shot 62 on Monday, including an ace, to get into the field.

“A win would have meant everything. It would have been the culmination of my career,” said Mason, who shot a 65 on Sunday. “That probably would have given me another year and a half out here. I still get a nice check, but a win would have been a total redo of my career again. But hopefully I’ll get one.”

Loren Roberts (65) and Nick Price (66) were equal fifth, two shots back. Jeff Sluman (67) finished alone in seventh, three back.

Bob Tway, who led by one shot after the first and second rounds, faded after a double-bogey on the sixth. He shot 71 and fell back to eighth place.

Wiebe and Mason both made nearly identical 15-foot birdie putts on the first playoff hole at No. 18. Immediately after Mason’s putt, a storm moved into the area and play was delayed for just over an hour.

For a while, the two golfers sat in their carts near the clubhouse chatting before a break in the weather had the players hustling back to the 18th tee.

Wiebe then missed a birdie putt from 15 feet to send the players back to No. 17.

Wiebe’s tee shot on the par-3 landed 40 feet left of the hole. His first putt ran five feet by, but he curled in the par putt. Mason sent his birdie putt past the hole, then missed the next putt for his first bogey of the day.

“I feel for James,” Wiebe said. “I’m tickled to have won this tournament, beside myself, so happy. I’m sorry for James that’s the way it happened for him. He played great this week.”

Funk’s 62 ended a wild week which began when he earned a spot in next week’s U.S. Open in sectional qualifying. Two days later he injured his left thumb when he hit a railing with his club on the deck during a warm-up swing.

He got a cortisone shot Thursday night and said he felt better Sunday. He then took the outright lead with a birdie on 16 and faced the prospect with a birdie-eagle finish of recording the Champions Tour’s first 59.

“It did enter my mind,” Funk said.

But Funk narrowly left a birdie putt short on 17 and his approach shot to 18 from 65 yards came up well short of the hole. He then missed the long birdie putt and could only watch as Wiebe and Mason moved past him.