SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- To get a sense of the magnitude of competition at the Senior National Championship, just look to the Hogan flight: 162 entrants all competing for one crystal trophy.
As expected, there were a lot of players in the hunt on the final day, but it was Ernie Dyer, from Orange, Tex. who stepped up with a steady round of 82 to win by two shots over Mike Knox.
At the beginning of the competition, knowing his flight was the deepest of the six, Dyer set his sights on finishing in the top 25. But after a third round 77 on the Talon course at Grayhawk Golf Club that he first began to think he had a real good shot at prevailing.
"My motto for the day was just to hit the next shot," said Dyer, 53, from Orange, Tex. outside Houston. "Let's click the holes off as soon as I could get 'em clicked off."
Dyer self taught himself the game when he was 25 and this is his first year on Am Tour. He qualified for nationals with a major victory at the San Antonio Open at La Cantera. has enjoyed his weekend games with his fellow golfers on the local Houston Am Tour.
"When we wake up each day, we hurt somewhere else," said Dyer. "We're not young anymore. This is something we can compete at. It's probably the only thing we can do. It's a competitive thing."
Dyer is sharing his victory with five other golfers from his home club in Orange, Sunset Grove Country Club.
"We're going to celebrate somewhere," he said. "And we're going to eat good."
Reeves runs away with Sarazen flight
The second largest field of the week was the Sarazen flight, where 153 golfers teed it up in round one.
While the Hogan flight came down to the wire, Chuck Reeves, from Snohomish, Wash., ran away with it, winning by seven shots. He shot a final round 82 on the Talon Course at Grayhawk Golf Club, capped with a back nine 39.
The Sarazen flight (handicaps 12-15.9) can often be prone to some blowup rounds, and the difference was Reeves' steadiness. Even when there were a few moments in the first two rounds at Talking Stick when it looked like the wheels might fall off (like a back nine 48 on day one), he was always able to rally with an ensuing solid nine.
"I was really immersed in the mental struggle to continue to focus and play well," said Reeves. "To come in and have practice rounds and four competitive rounds and some of the adversity, like the heat and the mosquitos and what not, it was really interesting to me."
This is Reeves' second stint in the game of golf. He played when he was younger, though baseball was his primary sport. Three years ago, he picked the game back up and jumped in with both feet: lessons, practice sessions. This year, he took the plunge back into competitive golf by joining Am Tour to see where he stood, and his victory today validated his commitment.
"I've never done anything at the national level where I've won," said Reeves. "So this is the pinnacle."
Now, as is custom on Am Tour, Reeves will be bumped up a flight to the Hogan (handicaps 8-11.9).