Editor’s Note: PGA Professionals in order in above photo are Stu Ingraham, Jerry Tucker and Bob Joyce.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Jerry Tucker showed Thursday why he’s considered a short-game guru.
Tucker, who has run a short-game school in Palm City, practiced what he teaches. Leading by one, Tucker’s hopes for a victory took a hit when his approach to the 18th hole on the Wanamaker Course bounced into a pampas bush.
“We thought he was going to take an unplayable,” said Roy Vucinich, one of Tucker’s playing partners who was looking at a 15-foot birdie putt that might enable him to win the PGA’s Quarter Century Championship.
Tucker considered taking an unplayable, then thought about hitting it left-handed. He finally took a stance facing away from the hole and hit a backhand shot that trickled down the hill and within 5 feet. Tucker made the putt for the victory – and a heckuva memory.
“That’s got to be my best up-and-down ever,” Tucker said. “When you do that on the last hole to win a tournament on a shot you probably should have taken an unplayable … I can’t remember a better one.
“I was just hoping for a bogey. I actually teach that shot. I knew if I took an unplayable, the best would be to get into a playoff. I couldn’t try left-handed, because I’m not that ambiguous, as Norm Crosby would say. I knew if I got it out, I had gravity on my side.”
Tucker’s unlikely par save enabled him to win the Quarter Century Championship for the fourth time. He shot a 71 to finish at 9-under 135 in the 65 and older division. Vucinich (68-136) was a shot ahead of Jim Sheerin (71-137).
Stu Ingraham (71) of Broomall, Pa., parred the second hole of a playoff to beat Mike San Filippo (68) and win the 50-to-64 division of the Quarter Century Championship. They finished at 9-under 135 on the Ryder Course.
Ingraham had a three-shot lead with two holes left, but he bogeyed the par-5 17th and San Filippo finished with a pair of birdies.
“I’ve played in 26 national championships and 10 majors, but I’ve never come to the Winter Series,” Ingraham said. “I made the decision to come this year. It turned out to be quite the investment (he made $3,350).”
San Filippo had won two Quarter Century titles, but his hopes for a third ended with a three-putt on the second playoff hole.
“I just hit a bad putt, but what are you going to do?” San Filippo said. “The best news is next year I get to play in the older division.”
Sonny Skinner (68-136) finished alone in third. Kirk Stauffer (69) was fourth.
Bob Joyce of Palm Beach Gardens won the Half Century Championship (must be a PGA member for at least 50 years) with a 2-over 74 on the Wanamaker Course. Joyce won by two shots over Port St. Lucie residents Bob Zimmerman (71-153) and Lynn Rosely (76-153).
Tucker, Ingraham and Joyce walked away with trophies, but everyone was talking about Tucker’s great escape afterward.
“When you see something like that, you applaud him,” Vucinich said. “It was unbelievable the way that came down there, better than a putt.”
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by Golf Advisor.com and PrimeSport.
Click here for Thursday’s final-round results from the PGA Quarter Century Championship (50-64) on the 6,599-yard Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club.
Click here for Thursday’s final-round results from the PGA Quarter Century Championship (65 and older) on the 6,072-yard Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club.