Two Georgia PGA members qualified for the 2014 Senior PGA Championship with strong showings in the recent PGA Senior Professional National Championship.
Craig Stevens, an instructor at Brookstone Golf & Country Club, tied for 6th in the tournament, which was played at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The tournament was originally scheduled to be played in Virginia last Fall, but was postponed due to heavy rains that made the host courses unplayable.
Also qualifying was veteran Champions Tour member James Mason of Dillard, a Lifetime PGA member. He tied for 12th in the tournament and will make his first Champions Tour start of the year in Senior PGA Championship, which will be played May 22-25 in Michigan.
Stevens will be making his second appearance in the Senior PGA Championship. He tied for 3rd in the Senior PNC in 2011 in Virginia, earning a spot in the Senior PGA in 2012. That tournament was also played at the Harbor Shore course in Benton Harbor, Mich., with Stevens narrowly missing the cut.
In the recent Senior PNC, Stevens shot 71-73-69-71 for a 4-under 284 total. He moved into the top 10 after his third round 69 and moved up the final day, finishing just one shot out of a tie for third.
After beginning his final round with 10 straight pars, Stevens carded three birdies and two bogeys over his last eight holes.
Stevens is looking forward to returning to Michigan after missing the cut by just one shot two years ago, due to two triple bogeys.
“I made two triples on two different holes,” he said. “Other than that, I played really good. The course is not real long and the layout suits me pretty well.”
Stevens has played in national events on a number of occasions, qualifying for PGA Tour events in the state as well as three PGA Championships, including both of those hosted by Atlanta Athletic Club.
“It’s tough for me to play in that arena sometimes, but I like the fact that I keep getting opportunities to participate at that level.”
Stevens has earned four Georgia PGA Player of the Year honors, including 2012 and ’13, both after he turned 50.
Mason, who is playing more Georgia PGA events as his Champions Tour career winds down, shot a second round 67 to more into a tie for 6th after 36 holes at 141. He followed with a pair of 73s the final two days to tie for 12th at 1-under 287.
After winning a Champions Tour event in New Jersey in 2002, getting into the field in a Monday qualifier, Mason has played on the tour for more than a decade. But he has gotten into just a handful of events the past few years, and has yet to compete on the tour this season.
Also making the cut in the Senior PNC was Sonny Skinner of Albany’s River Pointe GC. Skinner tied for 41st at 293, two shots out of a top 35 finish that would have qualified him for the Senior PGA Championship. Skinner has played well in that event in recent years, but will not get a chance to again finish as low club professional in the championship.
Skinner barely made the cut, tying for 70th after opening rounds of 73-75. He shot 75-70 the final two days, moving up 28 spots in the fourth round.
Also competing in the PGA Senior PNC but failing to make the cut were Jeff Gotham of Cateechee GC, Bob Burk of Stone Creek in Valdosta, Phil Taylor of Ansley GC and Tommy Brannen of Augusta CC. Stephen Keppler of Marietta CC and Russell Smith of Bent Tree both qualified for the event, but were unable to compete due to the change in dates.