Duluth’s Scott Dunlap and Savannah’s Gene Sauers tied for second in last week’s Champions Tour event
in Tucson, with both players having a chance to win going to the final hole.
Both players came to the 18 th hole one shot behind leader Steve Stricker after birdies on the par-5 17 th
at Tucson National. But both pulled their tee shots into the water that borders both sides of the fairway
on one of the most demanding holes on the tour and made bogeys.
Dunlap shared the lead after each of the first two rounds with Champions Tour rookie and former
Georgia Bulldog Tommy Tolles, with both posting scores of 65-70 the first two days on the par-73 layout
to lead Stricker by one heading to the final round.
Both Dunlap and Tolles took the first round lead with eight birdies and no bogeys, and were paired
together in the second round with Stricker, who was one back after opening with a 66. All three players
shot 70 in the second round to remain in the final group on Sunday, with Stricker driving into the water
on 18 Saturday and making double bogey to give up a lead he held going to the final hole.
Dunlap went to the front on Sunday with four birdies on his first eight holes, but missed a short par putt
on the seventh, and missed twice more from close range on the back nine.
“Short putting can be the bane of my existence, and it was today,” said Dunlap, who also rued his errant
tee shot on the 18 th. It was the only fairway he missed in the final round, as Dunlap enjoyed an
outstanding tournament from a ball-striking perspective, but had some issues with his putting.
The same could be said for Tolles, who turned 50 last year and was one of just five golfers to earn a spot
on this year’s tour in qualifying in late 2017. Five bogeys on his final 11 holes left Tolles with a final
round 75 and a tie for ninth at 210, five shots behind Stricker.
Dunlap and Sauers tied for second at 12-under 207, two in back of Stricker, who scrambled for par at the
18 th with one of several clutch putts he made in the final round. It was Stricker’s first win on the
Champions Tour since turning 50 last year.
Sauers, who is off to a strong start this season with top tens in three of his first four appearances, shot
67-70- 70 at Tucson National, with his bogey on the final hole Sunday just his second for the week. He
trailed Dunlap and Tolles by two shots after each of the first two rounds, and hung close to the lead all
Following his tie for second, Sauers moved up to sixth on the money list after earlier finishes of ninth in
the season-opening Tournament of Champions and seventh in the next event in Boca Raton, Fla. Sauers
has placed between 10 th and 26 th in the Charles Schwab Cup standings in each of his five seasons on the Champions Tour, with his lone win coming in the 2016 U.S. Senior Open, the tour’s most prestigious
Dunlap has placed between 13 th and 25 th in each of his four seasons on tour, with his only victory coming
during his “rookie” year in Seattle. He currently stands 10 th on the money list with a top 10 earlier this
season in Boca Raton.
Tolles is returning to competitive golf after being away from the game for almost a decade. He played on
either the PGA Tour or what is now the Web.com Tour from 1991-2009. He won twice on the Nike Tour
in 1993 and ’94, and was an early success on the PGA Tour.
Although Tolles never won on the PGA Tour, he scored a combined 15 top 10s in 1996 and ’97, and
made a name for himself early in the ’96 season when he played in the final group on Sunday three
weeks in a row in New Orleans, the Players and the final BellSouth Classic played at Atlanta Country
Tolles placed third, second and fifth in those three events, and added two more top-5 finishes that
season, one of them coming in the PGA Championship, where he finished one shot out of a playoff. He
tied for third in the 1997 Masters and made a few more runs at victory on the PGA Tour the next two
But Tolles struggled in each of last four years on the PGA Tour, failing to keep his playing privileges at
the end of each season. His last year on the tour was 2004, and after three-plus seasons with marginal
success on the Web.com Tour, he walked away after 2009.
When Tolles teed it up in the first round at Tucson National, he had a familiar playing partner. Paul
Claxton, Tolles’ teammate at Georgia in the late 1980s, made his Champions Tour debut in Tucson and
tied for 36 th with a 4-under 215 total, earning a little over $9,000.
Claxton, who spent 20 years on the PGA and Web.com Tours, turned 50 earlier this year, and has to
compete in pre-tournament qualifiers to earn spots in the weekly 78-player fields.
Claxton was the all-time leading money winner on the Web.com Tour after his final season in 2014, and
is attempting to play his way onto the Champions Tour after falling short in Q-school late in 2017. He
worked as the head professional at Hawks Point (now closed) in his hometown of Vidalia in recent years,
while also competing in Georgia PGA events.
With an eye on his 50 th birthday and the Champions Tour last year, Claxton increased his tournament
schedule and enjoyed an outstanding year in Georgia PGA and national PGA events.
Claxton placed third in the PGA Professional Championship, the top event for the country’s club
professionals, to earn a spot in the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. After tying for
second in the Georgia PGA event at Berkeley Hills, Claxton won the Georgia Open at Ford Plantation in
Savannah, and also won the Georgia PGA Professional Championship, the section’s qualifier for the 2018 PGA Professional Championship. In addition, he shared victories in a pair of Georgia PGA team events in
Joining Claxton in the field in Tucson was fellow Georgia PGA member and former tour pro Sonny
Skinner, who took the fourth and final qualifying spot in the field when he won a 3-for- 1 playoff. Skinner
finished the tournament in a tie for 54 th at 1-under 218, making his 31st career start on the tour and his
first since 2016.
Like Claxton, Skinner played both the PGA and Web.com Tours during his career as a tour pro before
becoming a club professional in 2006. He has won Player of the Year honors as both a senior and non-
senior at the Georgia PGA and national PGA levels, with his most recent victories in the Georgia PGA
coming in the 2015 and 2016 Yamaha Atlanta Open.
Neither Claxton nor Skinner will be in the field for this week’s Champions Tour event in southern
California, as both failed to finish among the top four in the pr-tournament qualifier.
Joining Dunlap, Sauers and Tolles in the top 10 last week in Tucson was Atlanta resident Billy Andrade,
whose tie for ninth was his second top 10 in three 2018 starts. Andrade is 26 th on the money list at this
early stage of the season, with Toiles ta 33, Augusta’s Scott Parel at 49, and Larry Mize of Columbus at
After a stop on the Mississippi Gulf Coast March 23-25, the Champions Tour will play at TPC Sugarloaf in
Duluth April 13-15, the week after the Masters.