Gasparilla Invitational: Charles Fitzsimmons wins in a three-man playoff
Charles Fitzsimmons (Submitted Photo)
Charles Fitzsimmons (Submitted Photo)

With the leaders in the clubhouse, Charles Fitzsimmons knew he needed a birdie on the par-5 No. 18 to get into the playoff at 1-over with Miles McConnell and Park Ulrich. He did just that and then made a birdie on the second playoff hole to win the Gasparilla Invitational at Palma Ceia Country Club in Tampa, Fla.

"I wasn’t paying much attention to the leaderboard, but I knew I was close, so I knew I had to make some birdies," Fitzsimmons said. 

"Coming right out of playing, I was able to be warm, and still having the tournament intensity was definitely a big advantage, and having just made a really big birdie on No.18, I felt good," Fitzsimmons said. 

Fitzsimmons shot rounds of 70-72-69 to get to 1-over and tied with McConnell and Ulrich. 

In the playoff, Fitzsimmons and Ulrich made birdies on the first playoff hole, while McConnell made a par. On the second playoff hole, Fitzsimmons made a birdie to win. McConnell and Ulrich finished T2. Six golfers finished T4 at 3-over and two shots out of the playoff. 

McConnell led by three shots over the field with two holes remaining, but bogeys on Holes No. 17 and 18 and birdies on No. 18 by Ulrich and Fitzsimmons caused the three to finish tied at 1-over. 

Ulrich shot rounds of 71-73-67, and McConnell shot rounds of 67-76-68. 

The second round was windy, and in the third round, it died down a bit to around 15 miles per hour to help the scoring.

Fitzsimmons has had a ton of success at the Canadian Mid-Amateur, winning in 2021 and 2022 and finishing T6 in 2023. He also finished T49 at the 2023 Porter Cup and T17 at the 2023 Gasparilla Invitational. He is currently ranked No. 679 in the Golfweek/ World Rankings.

In the Senior Division, McConnell won by five shots at 1-over. Bob Royak finished in solo second place at 6-over, and Michael Kelley and Doug Hanzel finished T3 at 8-over.
The senior leaderboard was well-represented in the rankings, as Royak is currently ranked No. 2 in the Senior Rankings, Hanzel is No. 3, and McConnell is No. 6.

"It means the world," Fitzsimmons said about winning. "The Gasparilla is one of the best tournaments in the world that I have played in and one of the top-ranked fields. I am humbled and honored to come out on top of that field."


On a day that might have been better suited for flying kites than playing golf, Palma Ceia CC relinquished just two under-par rounds. Derek Busby and Devin Hernandez both shot 69 in winds that touched 30 mph.

After a 70 on Thursday, Busby’s one-under 69 has him leading by one shot over Haymes Snedeker. Considering how stiff the wind was, Busby’s card was rather tidy. He made three birdies and two bogeys. Having started his round on the fourth hole in the shotgun format, Busby reached the 12th tee at one over for his round.

Back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 and then a final birdie on 18 got Busby under par, and he remained there with three pars to polish off his round. Hernandez, on the other hand, had a busy card, making two double bogeys during the round on Friday.

The four first-round leaders, who all shot 67, slid down the leaderboard on Friday. Miles McConnell fared the best, shooting a 73 to sit three shots behind Derek Busby. Doug Hanzel, who shot his age on Thursday, shot a 78; Darin Goldstein joined him in the 67-78 club. Marc Dull had the toughest day, shooting an 84. He missed the cut. Starting on the first hole, a stretch of four straight bogeys on hole Nos. 14-17 did him in.

In what was a packed leaderboard with 14 players within three shots of the lead after the first day, it’s a different picture heading into the final round on Saturday. 

Snedeker rode the leaderboard gravity up into second place after posting a 71 in the morning. Nick Maccario sits in third place alone at one-over after shooting a 73 on Friday.

The cut fell at nine-over par. An impressive group, including Davis Womble, Matt Parziale, Gene Elliott, and Sam Straka, all made it to Saturday on the number.

Given the weather is looking far better on Saturday, with lower winds and 70-degree temps, it’s quite possible that someone in the group of nine players at four-over par could make some birdies early and race up the leaderboard.


The first round of the Gasparilla Invitational ended with a logjam at the top of the leader that included two senior golfers hoping.

Miles McConnell, 57, and Doug Hanzel, 67, both had the early shotgun start and shot 67 at Palma Ceia. Hanzel just celebrated his birthday on Sunday. 

“It was good scoring weather,” McConnell said after the round. “I actually tried to get ready for this tournament this year. I don’t play much golf in January, typically. It’s nice to see that work pay off today.”

While there is a senior division, it seems both McConnell and Hanzel have their eyes set on a larger prize.

McConnell notched four birdies on hole Nos. 5,10,17,18. His only blemish was a bogey on the sixth. 

Hanzel rode an electric run through the middle of the course to shoot his age just four days after this birthday. Starting his round on the fourth hole, Hanzel went birdie-eagle-birdie on hole Nos. 10-12. 

Two other players also shot 67 - 2018 champion Marc Dull and Darin Goldstein. Like Hanzel, Dull also notched an eagle. His came on the third hole. He made birdies on holes 11 and 13 to reach the top of the leaderboard. Goldstein scattered four birdies throughout his trip around Palma Ceia CC.

In all, fourteen players broke par on Thursday. Last year’s runner-up, Nick Maccario, shot a 68 to maintain his solid play in Tampa over the last few years.

After the second round, the field will be cut to the low 60 and ties. Currently, that sits at 3-over par.

Results: Gasparilla Invitational
1CanadaCharles FitzsimmonsCanada40070-72-69=211
T2KSPark UlrichStilwell, KS30071-73-67=211
T2FLMiles McConnellTampa, FL30067-76-68=211
T4ALHunter HawkinsFort Payne, AL20071-75-67=213
T4ALBlake WattsFort Payne, AL20073-72-68=213

View full results for Gasparilla Invitational

ABOUT THE Gasparilla Invitational

54-hole individual stroke play championship with a cut after 36 holes to the low 60 and ties. Good mix of Florida players and national competitors looking for an early season tune up. Played on a traditional, tree lined golf course that isn't very long but has small, undulating greens.

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