Georgia PGA members Sonny Skinner and Tim Weinhart qualified for the 2020 Senior PGA Championship with top-35 finishes at last week’s senior club professional championship in Austin, Tex.
Skinner tied for 16thin the Senior PGA Professional Championship at the Barton Creek Resort, and will make his eighth career start in the Senior PGA Championship next year at Harbor Shores in Michigan.
Weinhart, who turned 50 earlier this Summer, qualified for the Senior PGA in his first attempt, tying for 29thin his first start in a national senior event.
Two other Georgia PGA members made a run at qualifying for the 2020 Senior PGA, but came up short in the final round. Paul Claxton tied for 53rd, four shots over the qualifying score, and James Mason struggled on the back nine Sunday to miss by six.
Mark Anderson andBrian Dixon made the 36-hole cut in the tournament, which featured a field of 264 players, but both narrowly missed advancing to the final round. Glen Herrell, the seventh Georgia PGA member in the field, did not make the 36-hole cut.
Skinner, a former tour player who plays out of Spring Hill in Tifton, has qualified for the Senior PGA Championship eight of the 10 years he has been eligible, and turned in another consistent performance to advance to the Champions Tour major for an eighth time.
The 59-year-old Skinner was under par in all four of his rounds with scores of 68-70-71-71. The first two rounds were played on the Coore/Crenshaw par-70 course and the Fazio Foothills par-72 course, with the Fazio course hosting the final two rounds. Skinner shot 2-under each of the first two rounds and 1-under the next two days for a 6-under 280 total.
Michigan’s Scott Hebert won the tournament by four shots with a score of 16-under 270. Skinner finished second, one shot behind Hebert, in the 2008 national club professional championship at Reynolds Plantation, with Weinhart tying for sixth.
Skinner was inside the top 25 after each round of last week’s championship, opening with a 2-under 68 with his only bogey coming on the 18thhole. He played his last 10 holes in the second round in 3-under, scoring three of his four birdies on par 5s to improve six spots to a tie for 17th.
After starting his third round with two bogeys on his first four holes, Skinner rallied for a 1-under 71, again scoring three of his four birdies on the par 5s on the Fazio Foothills course. He remained tied for 17thheading to the final round and again got off to a slow start with bogeys on two of his first three holes. But he played his last 15 holes in 3-under with four birdies for a final round 71 to tie for 16th, just two shots outside the top 10.
Next year will be the fifth time Harbor Shores has hosted the Senior PGA Championship, and Skinner has played in each of the previous four events there. He tied for 44thand 39thin 2012 and ’14, but missed the cut the last two times the Michigan course hosted the championship.
Skinner made the cut in each of his first five starts in the Senior PGA Championship, but has missed the cut in his last two. He made 29 starts on the Champions Tour between 2010 and ’15, but has played in just five events the last four years. In addition to his seven Senior PGA Championship appearances, Skinner has qualified for the U.S. Senior Open three times, tying for 26thin 2014 at Oak Tree in Oklahoma.
During his playing career, Skinner competed on the PGA Tour for four seasons in the 1990s, making a total of 120 starts, and played in 304 tournaments from 1990-2013 on what is now the KF Tour. Skinner, a long time resident of Sylvester in southwest Georgia, played two events on the original Ben Hogan Tour in 1990, its first season, and scored wins on that tour in both 1993 and ’94.
Since joining the Georgia PGA in 2006, Skinner has twice earned Player of the Year honors and has come close on several other occasions. Among his Georgia PGA victories are two in the Section Championship and Atlanta Open, the Match Play Championship and a combined four titles in the two GPGA senior events.
At the age of 59, Skinner currently leads the Player of the Year standings going into next week’s final event – the qualifier for the national club pro championship.
Weinhart, who recently turned 50, will need to win next week’s event at Jennings Mill and hope Skinner does not finish close to the top. Weinhart has earned Player of the Year honors nine times, and made a successful debut as a senior , winning a playoff over Skinner and Clark Spratlin in the Georgia PGA Senior Professional Championship in August at the Legends at Chateau Elan.
During his two decades plus in the Georgia PGA, Weinhart has won all four “Grand Slam” events – the Georgia Open and Atlanta Open once each, the Section Championship twice and the Match Play three times. He has also won the Section’s qualifier for the national club pro championship five times and needs a sixth to win Player of the Year honors for a 10thtime.
Weinhart, the Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links, is no stranger to major championships, having qualified for the PGA Championship five times and the U.S. Open once in addition to multiple appearances in Georgia’s PGA Tour events, both current and former. He spent one year as an infrequent competitor on what is now the KF Tour, and will attempt to match the feat of fellow Georgia PGA member James Mason, who went from competing in Section events to the Champions Tour.
In his first appearance in a national event at the senior level, Weinhart shot 4-under 282 to tie for 29th, coming up clutch with a 68 in the final round. He opened with four birdies and a 1-under 71 on the Fazio course, and was also 1-under the next day on the Coore/Crenshaw layout, making 16 straight pars before carding a birdie at the 17th.
A third round 74 with a double bogey late in his round dropped Weinhart outside the top 35, but he improved 20 spots the final day. Weinhart started the fourth round with three straight birdies and went 4-under with a birdie at the fifth. He birdied both par 5s on his second nine to get to 5-under for the day before a bogey at his final hole.
Claxton opened the tournament with a 3-under 69 on the Fazio course, but was 4-over the rest of the way to finish at 1-over 287, four shots outside the top 35. After making only one bogey in his opening round, Claxton had six bogeys on his scorecard in a 3-over 73 the next day and ran into some problems on the par 5s on the Fazio course over the weekend.
He was 3-under after 14 holes in the third round, but had a double bogey and bogey on the two par 5s on the back nine and settled for a 72 and a tie for 49thheading to the final round.
Claxton picked up an eagle on his third hole in the final round, driving the green on a short par 4, but his hopes of qualifying for the Senior PGAS Championship ended after he made triple bogey on the par-5 18th, his ninth hole of the day. He took another bogey on a par 5 on his second nine, including his third penalty stroke on a par 5 in two days. He shot 73 on the day.
Like Skinner, Claxton spent most of his career as a tour player on what began as the Ben Hogan Tour, playing for 16 seasons along with four on the PGA Tour. A native of Vidalia in south Georgia and a former Georgia Bulldog, Claxton teaches at Brunswick CC when he is not competing.
Mason was tied for sixth after am opening 4-under 68 to match his age. He started his second round with a birdie, but that was his only one on the day and he shot 3-over on the back for a 72 to drop to a tie for 31st. He carded three birdies on his first seven holes in the third round, but settled for another 72 after closing his round with eight straight pars.
Beginning the final round in a tie for 34th, Mason had an early birdie get to 3-under for the tournament, but was 6-over the rest of the day, with all six bogeys coming after Mason hit his tee shot in the rough. He finished with a 77 for a 3-over 289 total.
Mason played on the Champions Tour for more than a decade after winning a tournament as a Monday qualifier. This will be just the third time Mason has missed the Senior PGA Championship since his Champions Tour win in New Jersey in 2002. Mason plays out of the Orchard in Clarkesville.
Anderson, a St. Simons Island resident and long time instructor in the Section, shot a second round 68 on the Coore/Crenshaw course with seven birdies to make the 36-hole cut at 143, but missed the 54-hole cut by one shot after a third round 74. He began the day with a double bogey before getting back to even par when he drove the green on a short par 4 and made eagle. But four bogeys in a 6-hole stretch dropped him to 5-over for the tournament, and he came up a shot short despite birdies on his 16thand 17thholes of the day.
Dixon, an instructor at Fox Creek, had five birdies in his opening round and was 3-under for the day before a double bogey late in his round left him with a 1-under 71. He was 5-over after eight holes the next day following a triple bogey on a par 3, but played his last 10 holes in 3-under for a 72 to make the cut at 143. He again got off to a rough start in the third round and was 6-over after eight holes before playing the next 10 in 2-under for a 76 and a 219 total, three shots over the 54-hole cut.
Like Skinner, Dixon played in the Georgia PGA Match Play Championship on Monday before flying out to Austin. Skinner lost his semifinal match, while Dixon advanced to the finals before losing in the championship match.