Veteran West Australian Stephen Leaney is a step closer to playing the lucrative Champions Tour in 2019 having finished on top of the leaderboard at First Stage in California.
Leaney and Kiwi pair Michael Long and Martin Pettigrew advanced to Final Stage at TPC Tampa Bay in Florida from November 27 from the qualifier in California with Gavin Coles finishing inside the necessary top 29 to also progress from the First Stage qualifier in Florida.
Glenn Joyner and Grant Kenny both narrowly missed out on a spot at Final Stage but there were no such issues for Leaney.
Due to turn 50 next March, the 2017 Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open champion spent the entire week at First Stage safely nestled inside the top five, he and Jeff Gallagher separating themselves from the rest of the field as the week progressed.
Consecutive rounds of 66 in the second and third rounds gave Leaney a two-shot buffer heading into the final round, a 3-under 68 earning him medalist honours by a shot from Gallagher.
Long made his Champions Tour debut earlier this year after coming through Monday qualifying and comfortably earned a place at Final Stage while Pettigrew – the 2016 Australian Seniors PGA champion – saved his best round for the final day to also advance.
In Florida, Coles had to endure a nervous wait before his place at Final Stage was confirmed.
An opening round of 68 put the Bathurst native in great position but he gradually dropped down the leaderboard.
A final round of even-par 72 saw Coles drop a further three places but his finishing position of tied for 24th was two shots inside the qualifying mark.
The Aussie contingent failed to make an impression in the PGA Tour’s final full-field event of 2018 at the RSM Classic where Charles Howell III captured an emotional third PGA Tour title in a playoff against Patrick Rodgers.
Only four Australians teed it up at Sea Island Resort, Stuart Appleby finishing in a tie for 46th, Aaron Baddeley tied for 59th while Curtis Luck and Matt Jones both missed the cut.
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