Duluth’s Scott Dunlap claimed a spot on the 2014 Champions Tour, tying for 4th after 72 holes in the finals of qualifying and surviving a five-players-for-two-spots playoff.
Only five exempt spots were available from the qualifying finals, and Dunlap almost let his opportunity slip away, three-putting the 72nd hole at TPC Scottsdale for bogey to put himself in the playoff. He would have been outright 4th had he parred the hole.
But Dunlap parred the first playoff hole, as he and 2013 Champions Tour member Jeff Hart needed only one hole to secure their playing privileges on the tour for 2014. Seven other players earned conditional status.
After rounds of 69-64-66, Dunlap was in 3rd place after 54 holes at 14-under 199. But he made a triple bogey on the second hole of the final round and was 4-over after five holes. Dunlap righted himself with four birdies in a 5-hole stretch beginning at the ninth, and parred in from there until his bogey at the 18th.
Dunlap shot 73 the final day to finish at 12-under 272. In addition to the five players who were in the playoff for the last two exempt spots, four others finished one shot out of the playoff.
Three other Georgians reached the qualifying finals, but did not finish among the top 12.
Georgia PGA member Sonny Skinner, a former Tour player, tied for 31st at 278 with four rounds of par or better. Skinner, the head pro at River Pointe GC in Albany, has played in 16 Champions Tour events since turning 50 in 2010, including each of the last three Senior PGA Championships.
Veteran mini-tour player Javier Sanchez of Fayetteville also had four rounds of par or better, tying for 42nd at 280. Dillard’s James Mason, a Champions Tour member for more than a decade, was unable to regain his exempt status after a fast start.
Mason opened with a 66 and was 2-under for the day and 7-under for the tournament after 16 holes of the second round. But he settled for an even par 71 and shot over par in each of the final two rounds. Mason competed in just four Champions Tour events this past season.
Dunlap reached the qualifying finals by tying for 1st in a first stage qualifier in California with Jeff Brehaut, a Champions Tour member in 2013. Both finished nine shots ahead of the 3rd place finisher. Dunlap put together steady rounds of 70-71-71-70 to tie Brehaut at 6-under 282.
Dunlap has spent most of his career on what is now the Web.com Tour, and is exempt on that tour for 2013. He also has played seven seasons on the PGA Tour, most recently in 2012, and had a chance to return to that tour at the age of 50 for the 2014 season.
Sanchez, who has made a handful of Champions Tour starts in recent years, opened his qualifier in Texas with scores of 67-70-69. He led by two shots after the first round and by four after each of the next two rounds. But he shot 75 the final day while former PGA Tour player Lance Ten Broeck closed with a 67 to go from four behind Sanchez to four ahead. Sanchez finished 2nd, three shots in front of the 3rd place finisher.
Mason and Skinner advanced from a qualifier in Florida. Mason tied for 10th at 283, with Skinner getting the 20th and final spot, shooting 68-72 the final two days to move up from 33rd after two rounds. Skinner finished at 2-under 286.