West Australian Stephen Leaney survived a tense four-man playoff to secure one of only five Champions Tour cards for 2019 at Q School in Florida; now he must wait until he turns 50 so that he can play.
Due to turn 50 on March 10 next year, the 2003 US Open runner-up spent six full years on the US PGA Tour from 2004-2009 and was the only Australian to advance from final stage, Peter Lonard, Craig Parry and Gavin Coles and Kiwis Grant Waite, Michael Long and Martin Pettigrew unable to grasp one of just five cards up for grabs.
Leading through 36 holes, Leaney finished the four rounds tied for fourth along with Craig Bowden, Greg Kraft and Jim Rutledge, the four left to fight it out in a playoff for the two remaining spots.
Bowden found the water and a bogey on the first playoff hole, the remining three carding pars to advance.
Kraft parred the third playoff hole to secure his status for the 2019 season, while Leaney and Rutledge went onto a fourth playoff hole.
Rutledge hit his second shot into the water, while Leaney found the green and two-putted for par to claim the fifth and final card and status for the 2019 season.
A four-time winner on the European Tour and 2017 Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open champion, Leaney credited his upbringing on Australian courses for being able to handle the windy conditions that players faced at TPC Tampa Bay.
“I think being from Australia has helped me in this case because of the wind,” Leaney told PGA Tour Media at the halfway mark of the tournament.
“We are used to these types of conditions and while it may be cold, we feel as if we know how to handle them a bit better.
“The course is playing really hard, but I know that if I am able to control my emotions, control myself and stay patient I can finish this the way I want to.”
The 2019 Champions Tour kicks off on January 17 with the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai with Leaney’s first event likely to be the Hoag Classic at Newport Beach, California where he will celebrate his 50th birthday on the Sunday.
While most attention focused on RACV Royal Pines Resort for the Australian PGA Championship this week there were Aussies playing elsewhere around the world.
Brendan Jones finished the Japan Golf Tour season eighth on the money list after finishing tied for 15th at the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup, Brad Kennedy a shot further back in a tie for 19th to end the season in 20th on the Order of Merit.
Queensland’s Andrew Dodt was the best performer at the Queen’s Cup on the Asian Tour in a tie for 16th, Andrew Martin also making the cut before finishing tied for 48th.
Travis Smyth and David Gleeson didn’t qualify for the weekend rounds at the European Tour’s Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open and Jason Day was 16th at the Hero World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods.
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