Tim Weinhart turned 50 recently, making him eligible to compete in senior events at both the state, national and tour levels.
Weinhart has been the most successful player in the Georgia PGA since the early 2000s, earning nine Player of the Year titles and 17 wins in Section points events, including all four of its “Grand Slam” championships.
Among his list of titles are three each in the Georgia PGA Championship and Match Play Championship, two of the Section’s majors. But the tournament Weinhart has won the most is the Section’s event that serves as a qualifier for the national club pro championship.
Weinhart, the Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links, has won the Georgia PGA Professional Championship five times between 2006 and ’16 and made his debut earlier this week in the senior version of that event at the Legends at Chateau Elan.
The recently- turned 50 Weinhart made a winning debut in the championship, capturing a three-way playoff from long-time competitors Sonny Skinner and Clark Spratlin after the three players tied for first at 7-under 137 for 36 holes.
“Every time I have a chance t play in a national event since I can remember, it’s driven me more to play better,” Weinhart said after his playoff victory Tuesday.
At one point, Weinhart qualified for the PGA Professional Championship 15 years in a row and competed in the event 18 times in 19 years before missing out for a second time in 2018.
Weinhart’s first tournament after turning 50 was an enjoyable if unsuccessful attempt to qualify for the British Senior Open, and his initial appearance in a Georgia PGA senior tournament presented him with a rude introduction to the level of senior golf in the state.
Competing in a Georgia PGA Senior Division tournament last week at Rivermont, Weinhart shot a 73 in the first round and found himself trailing by 10 shots to Skinner, who dropped a 63 on the rest of the field and went on to win by five.
Weinhart finished tied for seventh at 143 after a second round 70, still 10 behind Skinner after 36 holes, but made up that ground the next week at the Legends.
Until a late surge by Spratlin, the tournament was largely a two-man battle between Skinner and Weinhart.
Weinhart opened with a 5-under 67 and was leading the tournament for about half an hour before Skinner turned in a 66 to take the top spot on the leader board going to the final round. A birdie at the difficult 18th, Skinner’s seventh of the day, gave him a slim advantage over Weinhart, who closed out his round with his only bogey at the par-4 finishing hole.
“Eighteen got me,” Weinhart said following his victory. “I was six-under par yesterday through 11 holes but I could not quite get any more. I played really good yesterday.”
Weinhart did not have his best stuff in the final round, but still managed to shoot 70 to finish at 7-under 137. He had to scramble to save par on a number of holes, and said he did “a great job today scoring.”
Trailing Skinner by one at the start of the day, Weinhart and the leader matched scores for nine holes before Weinhart pulled even with a birdie at the par-5 10th. Both players birdied the short, par-3 seventh and the par-5 ninth to turn in 2-under.
Weinhart needed two hard-earned par saves to stay close to Skinner, twice getting up and down from about 50 yards on holes 2 and 5, the latter after clipping a tree branch with his wedge approach to the dangerous par-5. He also executed two deft pitch shots for birdies at 9 and 10 to pull even with Skiinner, and did a good job of limiting the damage on the 11thafter a severely hooked tee shot led to a bogey.
Another deft short game shot resulted in a tying birdie at the par-5 14thby Weinhart, who slightly miss-hit his second shot and wound up just in front of the rock wall that fronts the green. With the pin cut close to the front of the putting surface, Weinhart hit what he described as “a great pitch” to card his third birdie of the day on a par 5, one-putting all four.
Weinhart hit what he admitted was “an awful pitch” at 17, but saved par with a clutch putt as he and Skinner went to the 18thtied.
Playing in the threesome two groups in front of them, Spratlin birdied both 17 and 18 for a 66, the low round of the tournament, to get into the clubhouse at 137. Both Weinhart and Skinner struggled on the 18thand had to battle for bogeys, resulting in a three-way playoff.
Skinner blocked his tee shot on 18 into the trees right of the fairway and hit a tree trying to get back in play, winding up on the tee at the adjoining 15thhole. He got himself back into position to make a bogey after using his putter from well off the green for his fourth shot.
With Skinner in trouble, Weinhart realized “that if I make par I win, and I got ahead of myself.” He hit a poor second shot from the fairway bunker on 18 and barely got his third to the front of the green, two-putting from long range for his bogey.
The 18thwas used as the first two playoff holes, with the three players parring the hole both times. Spratlin, who had his best tournament showing since recovering from injuries suffered in a car accident, had a chance to win with a birdie on the second extra hole, but could not convert his opportunity.
The playoff then went to the par-3 15th, a hole very similar in design to the 12that Augusta National, but with an even smaller green. None of the players could hit the putting surface from about 150 yards, with Spratlin coming up short in a bunker, and Skinner and Weinhart both off the left edge of the tiny putting surface.
Because his ball was behind a sprinkler head, Weinhart was forced to hit a chip shot, and got it within tap-in range for his par. Spratlin was unable to get up-and- down to save his par, and Skinner missed a short putt that would have extended the playoff.
The Georgia PGA received six spots in the PGA Senior Professional Championship, which will be played Oct. 3-6 at the Omni Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas. Spratlin, the Director of Golf at the Currahee Club in Toccoa, will be unable to play that week, which allowed the seventh player in the tournament to qualify for nationals.
The final spot also went to a playoff, with Doublegate CC Director of Golf Glen Herrellmaking a birdie on the par-5 14thto win on the first extra hole over Brunswick CC instructor Mark Anderson. Both players finished at even par 144, with Anderson shooting 73 in the second round and Herrell 74.
Herrell qualified for nationals for a second straight year, while Anderson qualified three straight times from 2015 to ’17 and could still get into the field as the first alternate from the qualifier.
Joining Weinhart, Skinner and Herrell at nationals are former tour players James Mason and Paul Claxton and Fox Creek instructor Brian Dixon. Claxton and Mason tied for fourth at 141 with identical scores of 71-70—141. Dixon shot 72-71—143 to finish fifth.
Mason, who plays out of the Orchard after more than a decade on the Champions Tour, was 5-under for the day and 6-under for the tournament after beginning his round with back-to-back birdies and adding three in a row at holes 9, 10 and 11. But he fell out of contention with three bogeys on his final four holes.
This will be Mason’s seventh straight start in the event, and he has recorded four top-20 finishes, tying for second in 2014 and was T17 last year at the age of 67. Skinner, also a former tour players who plays out of Spring Hill in Tifton, has qualified for the championship every year since first became eligible in 2010 and has four top-10 finishes in the event.
Claxton, who also teaches at Brunswick CC, will be playing at nationals for the second straight year after defeating Mason in a playoff last year at Settindown Creek to win the qualifier. Dixon will be making his first start in the senior nationals after letting a chance to qualify in his first attempt last year get away on the final hole of the tournament,