Pernice wins in Champions Tour debut

Pernice wins in Champions Tour debut

CARY, N.C.(AP) Tom Pernice Jr. became the 15th player to win in his Champions Tour debut, holing a 35-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Nick Price and David Frost in the SAS Championship.

“You don’t expect to hit a 35-footer, especially on the last hole to win,” Pernice said. “It was my turn to win, I guess.”

Pernice, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, closed with a 3-under 69 to finish at 13-under 203 on the Prestonwood Country Club course.

Frost shot a 67, and Price had a 68.

“That was exciting,” said Frost, who made a late charge with birdies on three of his last four holes. “I didn’t have a good start, but then all of a sudden, it changed.

“I birdied seven and eight, and I made a bunch of putts on the back nine. I can’t be too disappointed.”

Price, who birdied three of his last five holes, and Frost had eagle putts on No. 17, but failed to convert.

“I played really well the last five holes,” said Price, the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am winner in April. “I like where I am now. I would have liked to have won, but this has done a great deal for my confidence.”

Frost, who made his Champions Tour debut last week with a top-10 finish at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn, said he wasn’t happy with his putter after his first-round 69 Friday at the SAS. So, he borrowed a putter from the Prestonwood pro shop Friday night, and he liked it so much, he said he plans to buy it.

Pernice is the third player this year to win in his debut, following Tom Lehman, who teamed with Bernhard Langer in the Liberty Mutual Legends, and Senior PGA winner Michael Allen. In the 2007 SAS Championship, Mark Wiebe won his tour debut. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player also won in their first senior starts.

Dan Forsman, after battling Pernice for much of the day, shot a 70 to finish fourth at 11 under. Olin Browne (68), Russ Cochran (71), Denis Watson (71) and Andy Bean (68) followed at 10 under.

Pernice’s only bogey of the week came on No. 9 – his 44th hole of the event – after he hit his tee shot into the water. That left him tied with Forsman.

Three poor tee shots later, and Pernice was a stroke behind.

Forsman returned the favor by three-putting 12 and 13, missing a 3-foot par putt on the par 571-yard par-5 12th. After 13, Cochran and Forsman were a shot behind Pernice.

“I got off to a good start, and then I started to struggle,” said Pernice, who played 264 events before his first win on the PGA Tour. “I battled through some tough times in the middle of the round. I settled down after my par at 10.”

He said his 6 foot par putt on the 10th hole was almost as important as the 35-foot birdie putt he made on the 18th Sunday.

“It was pretty important,” he said. “That would have been two bogeys in a row, and I hadn’t had a bogey all week.

“It calmed me down, and then I started hitting some quality shots.”

Loren Roberts closed the gap on Fred Funk in the race for the Charles Schwab Cup, moving within seven points as they head into next week’s Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship, where the points are doubled.

Roberts, who started the SAS Championship 57 points behind Funk, began Sunday’s final round in a tie with Funk. But Roberts carded a final-round 66, just missing a 10-foot birdie putt on 18, to tie for ninth at 9 under and earn 50 Schwab Cup points.

Funk (68) tied for 18th at 7 under.

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