While Frank Esposito Jr. basked in the glow of his 2014 Senior PGA Professional National Championship victory on Sunday at PGA Golf Club, 34 other golfers were also in a celebratory mood. That's because the top 35 following Sunday's final round were guaranteed berths in the 2015 Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, to be held next May at the Pete Dye course in French Lick, Ind.
One of those was Kirk Hanefeld, a two-time winner of the Senior PGA Professional National Championship, who was in danger of missing out on a repeat trip to the Senior PGA Championship. After a quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 third hole Saturday, Hanefeld was 4 over for the tournament. But the New Hampshire native rallied with three consecutive birdies to close out his third round with a 1-over 73, then made five more birdies Sunday en route to a 3-under 69 -- allowing him to move up 23 places in the standings.
Hanefeld, who won the 2008 and 2011 Senior PGA Professional National Championships, faced a similar comeback in last year's Senior PGA Championship. After shooting a first-round 77, the University of Houston alum used four birdies to get himself to 1 under for the tournament, only to finish the round with back-to-back bogeys. He missed the cut by those two strokes.
Now Hanefeld will get another opportunity at French Lick. So will 2013 Senior PGA Professional National Championship winner Gene Fieger, who finished 11 shots behind Esposito. And Jeff Roth of Farmington, N.M. -- the 1993 PGA Professional National Champion -- turned in the day’s low round of 67, finishing tied for seventh place.
The final four qualifying spots came down to a playoff. Brian Cairns of Walled Lake, Mich.; Bobby Heins of Purchase, N.Y.; Rick Lewallen of Kannapolis, N.C.; and Gary Trivisonno of Aurora, Ohio, each parred the first playoff hole to earn a trip to Indiana in the spring.
Here's a complete list of those golfers who earned entry into the 2015 Senior PGA Championship, listed by order of finish, hometown and round-by-round score:
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