Golf Channel Staff, Palm Harbor, FL (December 11, 2011) The Golf Channel Am Tour's first Major event of the 2012 points season was a great way to end the 2011 calendar year. The Winter Championship, now in it's 2nd year, was contested at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club on the famed Copperhead and Island courses. Innisbrook, home of the PGA's Transition Championship, is situated on 900 acres in Palm Harbor just north of the St. Petersburg / Clearwater area of the Florida's Gulf Coast.
Players from 26 states, Ontario and Nova Scotia representing 28 tours were greeted to mild temperatures and overcast skies with just some brief showers during the opening round. Vying for 2012 National Championship qualification along with the double prize fund and awards that are handed out during Major Championship events only four of eleven first round leaders held on for the top spot.
Championship Flight: K.C. Fox from Sarasota, FL, played his first nine holes in one over par on Saturday keeping pace with Tampa, FL member Jeff Kritsberg, but then birdied the par 5-11th hole on his first day and he would never look back. A pair of 73's, one over at the Island course and two over at Copperhead would give Fox a six stroke margin over 2nd place Glenn Przybylski of Franfort, IL. Kritsberg would knot up the 3rd and final National Qualification position with Gaithersburg, MD player Bob Casamento.
Palmer Flight: Palm Harbor, FL local Jason Keene would start the final round four strokes back from Daryl Ewing of Indian Land, SC and grab the win by one stroke. While Keene's three birdies on the day wouldn't outmatch Ewing's four, he stayed out of trouble with the big scores, getting his sixth win on tour and his first Major Championship. Playing in the second to last group of the day, Jason Lehmann from Pinellas Park, FL would take a couple strokes off his Saturday round and finish in the show position.
Senior Palmer Flight: In his first event since being promoted from the Senior Hogan Flight, the 2011 National Championship Title holder, Jeff Couch from Haymarket, VA looked to keep his winning streak alive with the overnight lead. Playing along side Couch in the final pairing, Naples FL member, Jeff True had other ideas. Already a two time winner in the 2012 points year, True played the final 9 holes in two over par and made up a two stroke deficit after the first round to win by four strokes. T-2 with True after round one Clark Cowan West Chester, OH started out hot with birdies on one and ten, but ran into troubles on the eleventh through fourteenth holes and had to settle for National Championship qualifying 3rd place spot.
Hogan Flight: First round leader Diego Salem of Frederick, CO looked to have slept well on his overnight lead with pars on his first three holes on Sunday, but then seven over in his next seven holes made it close. Salem would then make comeback birdies on the 11th and 15th to keep a two stroke margin over London, England native from Lake Worth FL, Mark Sapsford. Playing in the second to last pairing Robert Will from Frankfort, IN would birdie his 36th hole to beat out Robert Re of Danbury, CT for the 3rd place finish.
Senior Hogan Flight: In the only sudden death playoff of the event, three players brought in two round total 167's, but each traveled a different route. In the third to last group, T-7 after round one Bill Zagozewski from Oldsmar, FL had the 2nd day low round, 79. T-1 after Saturday's round with Ross VanDooser, Alex Valdez from Boca Raton, FL struggled, but finished the best out of the final pairing. Bedminster, NJ member Dave Upchurch played consistent with an 84 and 83. In the end an up and down par from the fringe on the first hole of the playoff would give Upchurch his third win on tour and first Major Championship.
Sarazen Flight: Local player Dag A Rasen from Palm Harbor overcame a 4 stroke day one deficit to finish one stroke ahead of another nearby player, Brandenton, FL member James Pierce. Pierce playing in the 2nd to last pairing after finishing the first round in 4th couldn't muster a par on the final hole to tie it up with Rasen. Lutherville, MD player, Min Li led the first day with an 83, but didn't keep pace and finished 3rd by one stroke for his sixth, 3rd place finish in Major Championships.
Senior Sarazen Flight: Playing in the final pairing just one stroke back of the leader, Walter White from Monroe, LA made it two for two in the month of December. On a short break before his overseas duties, Walter won the prior week at a local event in The Texas Hill Country. Bradenton, FL, player Louis Nel looked to be going to a playoff with White, but tripled the 36th hole to finish one stroke back. Rickey Wilson playing in the second to last group grabbed the 3rd and final National Championship Qualification, his best finish in a major since winning the 2009 TPC SAWGRASS OPEN.
Jones Flight: Marco Martinez from Coral Springs, FL and Florence, KY member TJ Dunhoft were tied after day one, but in the end Dunhoft couldn't keep pace. Martinez birdied his sixth hole of the day staying consistent with a three stroke win over 2nd place finisher Vladimir Alfaro from Hudson Valley, NY. Alfarra recorded the Jones Flight low round on Sunday while Dunhoft would finish in 3rd place and National Championship Qualification.
Senior Jones Flight: Canadian, Eric Mott from Lower Sackville, NS doesn't get to play many events on the Am Tour but made the best of his second Winter Championship. Playing in the final pairing, just one stroke off the lead Mott ended up dueling with T-2 finisher Mark Boles from Sealy, TX after first round leader Fred Miller from North Palm Beach, FL struggled on the final day. Playing in the second to last pairing Miami, FL member Jose Miro jumped a few spots posting a T-2 finish with Boles.
Snead Flight: 5th place after day one, William Campbell from Sterling, VA did what he needed to do to jump to the top spot and get his third Major Championship win, but first out of the State of Virginia. The two time Kingsmill Classic winner, Campbell took 4 strokes off his day one finish to stay ahead of Lathan Lewis Atkinson from Tampa. T-7 after the first round, Atkinson shaved 8 strokes off his previous day to stay three strokes clear of T-3 finishers, Mario Castillo of Lithia, FL and Hollywood, FL member, Bryan Arledge.
Senior Snead Flight: One of only four overnight leaders to prevail on the final day, Les Denisar from Newburgh, NY made it look easy. Shaving three strokes off his day one score, Denisar picked up 3rd Major Championship victory to go with a couple of runner up spots by 10 strokes. Playing in his first Major Championship, Valley Stream, NY member Vijay Singh finished in the 2nd spot ahead of Marcy Glidden from Brookshire, TX. In her second year on tour, Marcy equaled her 3rd place finish at the Texas Shootout at Redstone GC.