The Champions Tour closes out its 2017 season Nov. 10-12 in Phoenix, and four Georgians are among the 36 players who have qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
None of the four players are likely to come away as the 2017 Schwab Cup champion, as they rank between 13th and 27th in the standings coming into the season finale. But all four have had successful seasons and will be looking to close out the year on a high note in Phoenix.
Savannah’s Gene Sauers tops the four Georgians on the Schwab Cup points list at 13, and has 10 top-10 finishes this season, two of them coming in majors.
Sauers, whose lone Champions Tour victory came in the 2016 U.S. Senior Open in a playoff over Miguel Jimenez, lost twice in playoffs this year — to Jimenez in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, and to Paul Goydos in Minneapolis after both players shot 20-under 196. Sauers now has six second-place finishes in his Champions Tour career.
In his first four seasons on the tour after an absence from competitive golf due to a skin disease that almost ended his life, Sauers placed 23, 10, 26 and 11 in the tour’s final standings, and has a chance to match or exceed his previous best finish with a big week in Phoenix.
Augusta’s Scott Parel is 20th in his first season as an exempt player on the Champions Tour. Parel competed on the tour last year, getting into most of his 15 events as a Monday qualifier, and ended the year 46th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list.
Parel has six top 10s this season and has finished in the top 20 in 13 of his 22 starts. His best tournament came in the Tradition in Birmingham, one of the tour’s five majors, where he finished tied for second, five shots behind Bernhard Langer, the tour’s dominant player for almost a decade.
At 5-foot-5, Parel is one of the shortest players on the Champions Tour, but is also one of the longest hitters, ranking second with an average of 296 yards per drive, less than a yard behind tour leader John Daly.
Parel, who did not turn pro until his early 30s, spent a number of years on regional mini-tours before spending most of his career on the Web.com Tour, scoring his only win at the age of 48 in 2013. He joined the Champions Tour in 2016 with no status, but enjoyed considerable success in Monday qualifiers and played well in big events, scoring top 10s in the Senior PGA Championship and the only two Playoffs events he was able to get into. He ended the year by winning Champions Tour Q-school to earn his status for 2017.
Atlanta resident Billy Andrade is 21st on the points list, with four top-5 finishes highlighting his season. After an early tie for fourth in Tucson, Andrade tied for third in the PGA Senior Championship and British Senior Open, finishing four shots behind Langer in both tournaments. Andrade tied for fifth in the most recent Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs event in Los Angeles, five shots behind Langer, who has won seven times this year.
In his first three seasons on the Champions Tour after playing a limited schedule for five years to do broadcast work as an analyst for the Golf Channel, Andrade placed 27, 4 and 18 in the Schwab Cup standings. His best year came in 2015, when he won three times, including the Schwab Cup Championship, where he won in a playoff over Langer. Andrade also edged out Langer by a shot in his previous win in Seattle.
Duluth resident Scott Dunlap has enjoyed another consistent season, standing 27th after placing 14, 13 and 13 in his first three seasons. Dunlap has finished among the top 20 in 14 of 23 starts, but has only a pair of top 10s, the reason for his drop in the standings.
Dunlap’s best showing this year is a tie for third in Calgary, where he finished three shots behind Scott McCarron, who is second to Langer this season with four victories. He placed between 14th and 29th in the five senior majors, getting off to fast starts in the four in the U.S. and shooting a 66 in the third round of the British Senior Open.
Prior to turning 50, Dunlap enjoyed a modestly successful career, winning all over the world in his early years as a tour pro before spending six seasons on the PGA Tour between 1996 and 2002. He spent most of the remainder of his pre-50 years on the Web.com Tour, where he won twice before making a brief return to the PGA Tour as he approached 50.
Dunlap’s lone Champions Tour victory came in Seattle in 2014. He also had five runner-up finishes in his first three seasons on the tour.