Keith Clearwater (Orem, Utah) couldn’t quite duplicate his 9-under-par 63 from Thursday, but his even-par 72 on Friday was enough to earn the 51-year-old medalist honors at the 2010 Champions Tour National Qualifying Tournament at TPC Eagle Trace. Clearwater finished with a 72-hole total of 16-under-par 272 and a three-stroke victory.
Lee Rinker (Jupiter, Fla.), Frankie Minoza (Manila, Philippines) and Phil Blackmar (Corpus Christi, Tex.) finished tied for second at 13-under-par 275. John Morse (Marshall, Mich.) earned the fifth and final fully-exempt spot when he prevailed in a three-man playoff. Morse made a birdie putt on the first extra hole to claim the fifth spot. He had posted a 12-under-par total of 276.
“It feels good to finish something and get it done,” Clearwater said. “It was difficult today playing in this wind and every shot was hard; maybe five to 10 shots harder than yesterday. It meant having to make good choices and make a lot of 3-, 4- and 5-footers. It was a tough day, so I was very pleased to make the putts when I needed to and keep that distance I had most of the day. But now this allows me to make my schedule for next year and play every week, so I'm looking forward to that.”
Clearwater shook off a bogey on his opening hole with a birdie on his second hole and was never really threatened after that and his steady play kept him at least two in front the rest of the day.
Morse added some excitement to the final round. Playing in the last group and only needing a par to claim one of the five exempt spots, he missed a four-foot putt for par at No. 18 forcing him into a playoff with Robert Thompson (Huntsville, Tex.) and Roger Chapman (Ascot, England). However, Morse made quick work of the playoff, sinking a 10-footer for birdie on the first hole for the coveted fifth spot.
Minoza’s birdie at No. 18 was also critical since it helped him avoid a possible playoff as well as earning him his first Champions Tour card.
“It’s like a dream come true for me and I am so happy,” Minoza said after his 5-under-par 67. “I putted very well today and that was the key.”
Seven other players earned conditionally-exempt status for 2011. They include (in order of finish): Chapman, Thompson, Mark Mouland (Kenilworth, England), Jim Rutledge (Victoria, B.C.), Steve Haskins (El Paso, Tex.), J.L. Lewis (Austin, Tex.) and Fred Holton (Montgomery, Ala.).
There was no cut in the 72-hole qualifier. The top five finishers earned fully-exempt status for the 2011 season, while the finishers 6-12 will be conditionally exempt. In addition, the top 30 finishers and ties will be eligible to compete for spots in open qualifiers at all co-sponsored events on the Champions Tour in 2011.