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Jim Gallagher takes down two former Senior National Champions to the 2011 Senior Amateur Tour National Championship- Nov. 15 and 16 in Pinehurst, NC

Senior Amateur Tour winners were (L-R) Jim Gallagher, Mark Toloso, Tommy Williams and Larry Hinson. (Howard Ward photo)

There were four ecstatic flight winners in the Senior Amateur Championship event held in the Sandhills Tuesday and Wednesday, but the three biggest winners may have been the host courses.

Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club, National Golf Club and Seven Lakes Country Club drew rave reviews from the more than 200 players who competed in the event.

Jim Gallagher is a former Air Force Navigator from Yorktown, Va., who spent 27years flying for his country. But he was probably never higher off the ground than when he received the trophy for his victory in the Championship Flight.

Gallagher, whose two rounds were played at Pine Needles and Seven Lakes, shot 71-73—144.

“Those are two great tracks,” he said. “Almost any course you play in this area is going be a good golf course, but to play the two I played were really special. I’m going to take these scorecards home and hang them on my wall.”

Gallagher plays to a handicap of  +2.6 and also plays on the Golfweek Amateur Tour. He is playing the Senior Amateur Tour Championship for the second year.

Former Senior National Champion Dennis Brady of Orlando, Florida, held the first-round with a 70, but finished second after a 76 in the final round.  Defending champion Tom Cone of Charlotte and Rick Luzar of Pinehurst tied for third, both posting 148.

Mark Toloso of Haughton, La., won Flight A with 79-77—156, but had to do it the hard way, in a sudden-death playoff against Jeff Jordan of Hilton Head, S.C.

Toloso didn’t pick up a flight win during the regular season, but made the most of his chances in rounds at National and Pine Needles.

“I love this tour,” Toloso said,” and these golf courses are great. I was fortunate enough to make a birdie in the playoff and beat Jeff.”

And why wasn’t Jordan able to answer back? “Well when you put the ball in somebody’s backyard up against a wall, it’s kind of tough to make birdie,” Jordan said. “You ever heard of golf in the pines?”

“We were playing together and it was a good match,” Toloso said. “It came down a few putts here and there. It was hard; it was a joy; but it was tiring.

“I’m from Louisiana and these hills are awesome, but they’re foreign to me.”

Tommy Williams, a member of the Mississippi tour, made up a four-shot deficit on the second day to win Flight B, shooting 84-77—161 and finishing three strokes ahead of runner-up Tim Sobitz of Orlando, FL.

“This is first thing I’ve won since 1973,” the proud Williams said as he clutched his trophy. “This really means a lot to me.”

Two Charlotte golfers finished 1-2 in Flight C, with Larry Hinson nipping Van Storie and two others by a stroke, 170-171.

The two entered the final round tied at 86, but Hinson shot 84 take the title with 170, while Storie, Lee Davidson of Kentucky and Len Benedetti of Orlando, FL, shared second.

The team competition came down to the two C flight scores to determine the Cup winner.  Charlotte won for the 4th consecutive year aided by Larry Hinson and Van Storie who posted good C flight scores.  Charlotte was 3 shots back to the Raleigh/Pinehurst team but made up that ground and won by 9 total shots over two days.

Top five city scores:

Charlotte                       643-642=1285

Raleigh/Pinehurst      646-648=1294

Orlando                         660-644=1304

Indiana/West KY      669-657=1326

Triad, NC                 681-668=1349

A special thanks to tour sponsors Grand Lucayan Resort Bahamas and Vision Airlines who put up an all-expenses paid trip for two to any hole-in-one made during the tournament.  Since no competitor made an ace they gave the trip away in a drawing and Len McAlister from Charlotte won the trip.



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