Marc Dull (L) and Doug Hanzel took two different routes to victory at Palma Ceia
TAMPA, FL (February 24, 2018) - Marc Dull
(Winter Haven, FL) emerged from a crowded leaderboard with a final-round 4-under 66 to win the Gasparilla Invitational at Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club.
Playing in the group ahead of the final three, Dull was able to pick up five shots on leader Mike Finster
(St. Petersburg, FL) over the final six holes and pull ahead just at the right time.
Finster, who has played in the last three U.S. Senior Opens (although he is not yet eligible for senior amateur golf), birdied three straight holes to start his final nine, getting him to 7 under for the tournament and three shots clear. But Dull birdied the par-3 13th hole, and when Finster made bogey there, the lead was one.
Both players would bogey the par-4 14th, but Dull would tie it up with a birdie on the 15th, then nudged ahead with another birdie on 16.
Finster drew even with a clutch birdie on the par-3 17th, but Dull was on his way to a closing birdie on the par-5 final hole which pulled him ahead again. Needing to match Dull's birdie to frce a playoff, Finster instead made 6 for the final two-shot margin.
For Dull, it was his second significant win in the last four months, having taken the Florida Mid-Amateur Stroke Play
at the CC of Winter Haven in October. Then, he took a six-shot lead into the final round and held on; this time he took it at the end.
"That was a lot of fun," Dull said afterward about his comeback. "It was nice to really put it down when it mattered."
Earlier, it was Joe Alfieri
(Lutz, FL) who looked to have the inside track to the title, taking the lead into the back nine on the strength of a 3-under outward nine of 32 (for the week he played the front nine in 8 under). But he could never get anything going on the back. dropping three shots and sliding back to 4th with a 70 for a 3-under 207 total.
(New York, NY), held at least a share of the lead after each of the first two rounds, maintained a share of the lead on the front nine after making birdies at 2 and 3. He gave those shots away around the turn, however, and couldn't pick up any shots until a final-hole birdie that gave him a 70 for a solo third-place finish at 4-under 206.
One of the more intriguing possibilities heading into the final round was Doug Hanzel
winning both the Overall and Senior championships. The Gasparilla Invitational is unique in that the Senior contestants play in the Overall division from the same set of tees, rather than in their own division from separate tees.
Through six holes, things were looking up for Hanzel, with three birdies getting him to 4 under for the tournament and only one shot behind the overall leaders. At that time, he was nine shots ahead of the defending senior champion Bob Royak
of Alpharetta, GA (who started on the 5th in the modified shotgun start and was several holes ahead), and appeared to have both trophies within reach.
But winning is seldom easy, and Hanzel started losing touch with the leaders with three dropped shots in the middle third of his round. At 3 under and needing a fast finish on the final three holes, he instead went completely the other way, limping home with a bogey-double-bogey finish.
Meanwhile Royak had been chipping away Hanzel's lead, and with 3 birdies on his last five holes, posted a 69 for a target score of 2-over 212. In the end, Hanzel's closing 73 was good enough for a one-stroke win. Hanzel finished tied 7th in the overall championship, with Royak tied for 10th.
"Coming in the wheels came off," said Hanzel. "I just lost concentration."
"I hit the wrong clubs and put myself in [difficult] positions...and it's easy to make bogeys when you get out of position. I got a little too aggressive, hit the ball a little too far a couple of times, and just had no chance when I short-sided myself. Yeah it was a learning experience."
Despite the unappetizing finish, Hanzel won his third straight tournament to start the 2018 senior season. The 2017 AmateurGolf.com Senior Player of the Year
won the Golfweek Senior POY Classic last month, then added the Senior International Four-Ball Championship 10 days ago.
U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale
(Brockton, MA) continued his Masters preparation with a solid tied 7th place finish after rounds of 69-70-72. His four-ball partner Herbie Aikens
(Kingston, MA), with whom Parziale won the International Four-Ball
earlier this month, finish T12 with rounds of 73-70-70.
Interviews with Marc Dull and Doug Hanzel (Gasparilla video):