After four years without a victory in a Georgia PGA Section event, Tim Weinhart shot a final round 66 at Sea Island Golf Club’s Seaside course to erase a three-stroke deficit and end his winless drought in the EZ-GO Georgia PGA Championship.
It was Weinhart’s second career win in the event, one of the Georgia PGA’s four majors, and put him on the verge of a ninth Player of the Year title. He now has 15 victories in Georgia PGA points events over the past two decades, including all four majors, along with five team titles, three Assistants’ Championships and numerous other tournaments conducted by the Georgia PGA.
“This was gratifying,” said Weinhart, whose last win in a Section event came in the 2012 qualifier for the national club professional championship. “Winning never gets old. I hit a couple of squirrely shots, but I putted pretty well, and that makes up for everything.”
Since his last victory four years ago, Weinhart has had multiple close calls, including a number of tournaments in which he finished as low Georgia PGA member behind an amateur winner. Weinhart managed to earn section Player of the Year honors in 2015 without a tournament title, relying on his consistency over the course of the year.
Coming into the Section Championship, Weinhart was again at the top of the points standings without a victory, again on the strength of his consistent top finishes, including a runner-up showing at Berkeley Hills that earned him first place points and money when an amateur won.
Weinhart began the final round three strokes behind Sonny Skinner in a tie for second with Paul Claxton, who was second on the Web.com career money list when he left the tour after the 2014 season.
The three were paired in the final round along with defending champion James Mason, like Skinner and Claxton a long-time tour player, in his case the Champions Tour. Because of the threat of inclement weather, tee times for the final round were moved up, with the field of approximately 100 players teeing off in a shotgun start.
Claxton, the head pro at Hawk’s Point in Vidalia, managed just one birdie the final day and finished fourth at 1-over 211. Mason made a move with three birdies in a five-hole stretch beginning at the seventh, but settled for a 68 to place third at 210.
That left Weinhart and Skinner, who was looking for a second win in one of the Section’s 2016 majors following his repeat victory in the Atlanta Open earlier this Summer. Skinner shared the first round lead with Weinhart at 68, but moved ahead by three after 36 holes with a second round 69.
Skinner’s lead reached four early the final day, but Weinhart ran off consecutive birdies at holes 6, 7 and 8, holing a 10-footer at the par-3 sixth, an 8-footer at the par-5 seventh and 4-footer at the par-4 eighth. That pulled Weinhart within one of Skinner’s lead, who also birdied the eighth to maintain his slim margin. That proved to be Skinner’s last birdie of the day, and Weinhart moved past him with consecutive birdies at 13 and 14.
Weinhart rolled in a putt in the 25-to-30-foot range at the 13th to tie Skinner, and followed with another putt of about half that distance at the 14th to claim the lead. The two players parred in from there, but not without a little drama on the long and difficult par-4 18th at Seaside.
Both players hit their second shots into the front right bunker. Skinner was left with a par putt of around 12-to-14 feet, with Weinhart about five feet closer. Skinner made his to put the pressure on Weinhart, who responded by holing his par attempt for the win.
Weinhart’s closing 66 gave him a 4-under 206 total, while Skinner matched par of 70 in the final round to finish at 207. Weinhart collected $5,100 for his victory and earned a spot in next year’s PGA Professional Championship in Oregon, the national championship for the country’s PGA club professionals.
The win also put Weinhart in excellent position to take Player of the Year honors for the ninth time, which would earn him a return trip to Sea Island this fall for the PGA Tour RSM Classic, an event he has played well in previously but has just missed making the 36-hole cut.
“Every time you get to play in a Tour event, it’s fun,” said Weinhart, who has played in PGA Tour events in the state, as well as five PGA Championships and the U.S. Open. “You get to play against the best players in the world and you have to play well to play on the weekend.”
Weinhart is about three years away from eligibility for the Champions Tour, but still has a while before thinking about giving that tour a shot.
Well before that, Weinhart has a scheduled trip next June to Oregon for the national club pro championship, where he has competed three times previously. He will be looking to qualify for the PGA Championship for a sixth time.
Weinhart will still compete in the Section’s qualifier, looking to wrap up Player of the Year honors for the ninth time.
“Player of the year has always meant a lot to me,” Weinhart said. “I don’t have it quite sown up, but I’m close. I like my chances.”
During his two decades of competing in Georgia PGA events, Weinhart has piled up a sizeable number of top finishes, and the Section Championship is no exception. Weinhart scored his lone previous win in the tournament at Sea Island’s Seaside course in 2005, and after going several years without contending, has been a consistence presence near the top of the leader board since 2010. He finished second, third and fourth in the event from 2010-12, and was second the last three years, coming up one shot short in 2013.
Weinhart did not get off to the best of starts in this year’s tournament with bogeys on two of his first three holes. But five birdies, including one at the tough 18th to conclude his round, gave him a 68 and a share of the lead with Skinner and Chris Shircliff of the Standard Club, who shot himself out of contention in the second round.
For the second straight day Weinhart struggled early, with a double bogey at the 14th leaving him 3-over after five holes. He was 4-over after 10, but carded three birdies over his final eight holes for a 72 to stay within three of Skinner, a former PGA and Nike Tour member who is the head pro at Spring Hill in Tifton.
Clark Spratlin, the Director of Golf at Currahee Club in Toccoa, closed with a 68 to finish fifth at 212. Stephen Keppler, the Director of Golf at Marietta CC and a four-time tournament champion, was sixth at 213, the first time since 2004 he has finished outside the top five in the Section Championship. Since then Keppler has been runner-up six times and third on three other occasions, winning in 2011 for the first time in 15 years.
Weinhart has a comparable record in recent years, with his victory coming in his first year as the Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links. Weinhart is a long-time teaching pro in the Atlanta area, but this is the first time he has been in charge of his club’s instructional operation.
In fact, Weinhart is teaching at two facilities, as he divides his time between Heritage and Woodmont, which has the same ownership as Heritage Golf Links. Fortunately for Weinhart, he lives about equidistant from the two clubs, but the increased administrative duties and the challenge of dealing with separate groups of students at the two facilities has cut into his practice time.
“I’m having to juggle my schedule quite a bit more, but it’s good. I have zero complaints,” Weinhart says.
The Georgia PGA Championship was presented by TaylorMade-adidas golf, Ashworth, Adams Golf and the PGA Tour.