PORT ST. LUCIE – Fran Marrello of Plymouth, Ct., won the biggest golf tournament of his career Friday, shooting a 3-under 69 to claim the 50-64 age group title in the Quarter Century Championship at PGA Golf Club.
Marrello had three birdies and eagled the 13th hole on the Wanamaker Course to build a comfortable lead. Two late bogeys didn’t prevent Marrello from winning by four shots over Lon Nielsen and Bill Breen at 3-under 141.
“It’s funny, I hit the ball better yesterday but putted very poorly. Today I didn’t feel quite as comfortable over the ball,” said Marrello, a PGA Professional at Canaan Country Club in Canaan, Ct. “I was proud I was able to hang in there.”
Marrello, 63, played in 12 majors, but never felt his game matched up at the highest level. Not Friday in the first event of the PGA Winter Championships.
“It’s a thrill to win a national championship,” Marrello said. “When I played in the majors, I always felt my game got a little exposed.”
Nielsen (71) and Breen (70) tied for second place at 145, a shot ahead of Danny Elkins (74-146).
In the 65-and-older division, James Mason of Dillard, Ga., shot a 5-under 67 to win by 11 shots over Jim Sheerin (73-144) of Rye, N.H. Mason finished at 11-under 133 for his second PGA Winter Championship victory (he won the 2013 Senior Stroke Play).
Mason shot a spectacular 66 in Thursday’s brutal conditions and never let up Friday. After an early bogey, he birdied four of his next six holes.
“It ain’t ever a walk in the park,” said Mason, the PGA Teaching Professional at The Orchard Golf and Country Club in Clarkesville, Ga. “People don’t realize how hard it is to win. And when you’re supposed to win, it makes it even harder.
“I played extremely well the last two days, especially (Thursday). I obviously putted it very well. You have to shoot those scores.”
Mason won once on the PGA Tour Champions.
Ed Sabo (72-146) of Pinehurst, N.C. finished third at 146, a shot ahead of David Glenz (70-147) of Hamburg, N.J.
Nunzio Ciampi of Palm City shot a 1-under 71 – 10 strokes below his age – to win the Half Century Championship and the 80-84 division. A player must have been a PGA Professional for at least 50 years to compete in the Half Century Championship.
The PGA Winter Championships, conducted by the PGA of America, are presented by Golf Advisor and PrimeSport.