Monday qualifier wins Senior tourney

June 2, 2002 at 4:27 PM
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CLIFTON, N.J., June 2 (UPI) -- James Mason, who has traveled around the country attempting to qualify on Mondays in order to play in tournaments on the PGA Senior Tour, holed two spectacular shots Sunday and held on down the stretch to win the NFL Classic.

Mason, a teaching pro from Georgia, earned a one-year exemption on the Senior Tour by becoming the eighth Monday qualifier to win a tournament.

"This is beyond my comprehension," Mason said. "I can't put it into words."

Mason owned the first-round lead by shooting a 65 at the Upper Montclair Country Club and then fell back into fourth place heading into the final 18 holes.

But he got things going by holing a wedge shot from 107 yards for an eagle at the second and then saw a bunker shot run into the hole for birdie at the sixth. Owning a two-shot lead going to the 17th, Mason almost chipped in for birdie at the par-3 hole and then made a six-foot, par-saving putt.

"I was as nervous as I could be," he said. "But I thought if I could make that putt, I could figure out a way to make a (par) five at the last no matter where I drove it."

Mason drove into deep into the trees to the right of the 18th fairway and then hit his second shot down the 10th hole, leaving him a shot over a pond for this third.

"I hit a great shot there," he said. "And I had sweaty palms."

Mason was left with a 15-foot birdie putt, which he left two feet short. But he tapped in for a par that gave him a 3-under 69 for a three-day total of 9-under 207. Tour rookie Morris Hatalsky, Bruce Fleisher and Dave Eichelberger shared second place at 209 while Walter Hall tied Jay Sigel for fifth at 210.

Mason became the first first-time winner on the tour this year.

"The biggest thing is that I don't have to qualify on Mondays for a year," Mason said. "Hopefully, I can play good enough to keep my card. This is great.

"My phone has been flooded with calls this week. I guess it will be a little more hectic, but I like it this way."

Mason has said that his only goal has been to earn his way onto the Senior Tour.

"I guess I will have to re-think my goals now," he said. "But you can't get to two without getting to one."

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