Those earning full exemptions on the Champions Tour (L-R): P.H. Horgan III, Jeff Hart, Jim Rutledge of Canada, Gary Hallberg and Jeff Freeman (Photo courtesy of Champions Tour)
If a golfer doesn't have a gaudy PGA Tour career, the Champions Tour is a tough goal. Five players survived the gauntlet Friday, earning full exemptions for 2012 in the national qualifying tournament at TPC Scottsdale's Champions course.
Jeff Freeman, a club professional at CC of Orlando, cruised to medalist honors, closing with a five-under 66 for a 20-under 264. Freeman won by four strokes over former Champions Tour winner Gary Hallberg and Canadian Jim Rutledge. Jeff Hart and P.H. Horgan III were the others earning fully-exempt status.
Seven golfers earned conditionally-exempt cards: Jim Carter, Sonny Skinner, Bobby Clampett, Mark Mouland, Robin Freeman (the medalist's older brother), James Mason and Dick Mast. The top 30 finishers and ties are eligible to compete in open qualifiers next season.
Freeman, who will be able to start competing after he turns 50 in April, picked up $30,000 for his victory. "Scary day, scary day today," Freeman said of the final round. "When you are in these types of situations, if you don't play well, then you don't have a tournament to play in. I was scared all day, nervous all day and anxious all day. I just tried to play one shot at a time and get through the darned thing."
-- Bill Fields