By: Craig Dolch
Reprinted with permission by PGA.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.- Neal Lancaster was rooting for playing partner Craig Thomas to make a 50-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
Until Thomas made it.
“I was thinking, ‘Here we go with Canada again,’” Lancaster said, referring to when he doubled the final hole of the 2002 Canadian Open and lost in a playoff. “I wanted him to have to make me make that last putt to win. Luckily, I shook it in.”
Lancaster’s 2-foot putt on the final hole enabled him to win the 50-59 division of the PGA Senior Stroke Play Championship at 18-under 198. Lancaster, from Smithfield, N.C., shot a 5-under 67 on the Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club.
Lancaster’s last noteworthy victory came at the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic, when he won a six-man playoff.
“I knew I was going to be nervous because I haven’t won in so long,” said Lancaster, a member on the PGA Tour from 1990-2005. “I probably had my three best putting days since I was a child.”
Thomas was 5-under on his first 10 holes to overcome a three-shot deficit and lead by one. But not even a pair of closing birdies was enough to help the White Plains, N.Y. resident win.
“It’s a little different when you’re playing with a guy who won on Tour,” Thomas said. “I just didn’t want to embarrass myself. It looked like every putt Neal hit was going in.”
In the 60-and-older division, Lon Nielsen of Palm Beach Gardens made a 40-foot putt on the second playoff hole to win. Nielsen (67), Mike San Filippo (67) of Hobe Sound and Kirk Hanefeld (68) had finished at 14-under 202 on the Wanamaker Course.
“I wanted to make sure I got it to the hole and it just caught the edge of the cup,” said Nielsen, who putted extremely well the last two days only to three-putt for bogey on the last hole of regulation. “I hit as good a putt as I hit all week (on 18), so you can’t beat yourself up.
“That’s a (PGA Winter Series) Slam for me,” said Nielsen, who won twice on the PGA Tour Champions. “I’ve won the Match Play, the Stroke Play, the Quarter Century and the Senior-Junior last year. I think that’s all of them.”
San Filippo was eliminated on the first playoff hole with a bogey, his second consecutive playoff loss. Dan Wood (68) of Port St. Lucie and Bill Schumaker (67) tied for fourth, three
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