ROOKIE American Bart Bryant has become the 1,000th winner on the US Champions Tour 33 years after its inception.
The 50 year old won the 2013 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open and was handed the trophy by the tour’s first winner, Don January.
Bryant, who shot a tournament record-tying 10-under 62 in the second round to build a four-shot lead, closed with a 72 on Sunday and finished at 16-under to beat Russ Cochran (67) and Corey Pavin (69) by one shot.
“It was a difficult day for me. I just never really felt settled,” Bryant said, “I really didn’t play great. Somehow, I managed to get it in. I think we all feel very blessed at the moment to pull this one out.”
It was a memorable moment for Bryant and the senior tour, which began in 1980 at the Atlantic City Country Club in Atlantic City.
[quote]We thought there might be a market for us old guys[/quote]
“We thought there might be a market for us old guys,” the 83-year-old January said. “We were just interested in getting enough to make a living. There were a bunch of us guys in our late 40s and early 50s still trying to play the (PGA) TOUR and wasn’t being very successful at it. Yet we felt like we could still play a little bit.”
The inaugural year consisted of just four events. The purse at the Atlantic City Senior International was US$125,000 and the total prize money for the season was US$475,000. January took home US$20,000. Bryant, whose best previous finish this season was a tie for fourth at the 3M Championship in his last start two weeks ago, pocketed US$270,000 of the US$1.8 million purse.
“Truthfully, when we first started we had no idea how long it was going to last, or whether it would even be successful,” January said. “We thought we had a pretty good product, but we weren’t sure of anything. I never thought in that realm of 1,000 tournaments. My god, that’s forever. It’s come a long way. Hopefully, it will get better.”
For, Bryant, who won in just his 14th start on the circuit, it was his first victory since winning the 2005 Tour Championship, ending a drought of almost eight years. He also won the 2005 Memorial and the 2004 Valero Texas Open on the PGA TOUR.
That was before two surgeries on his left wrist relegated him to spectator status for nearly three years and left him wondering if he’d ever play again, let alone win.
“I dreamed about it. I envisioned it. I don’t know if I believed it would happen, especially after I did the first surgery and it failed,” Bryant said. “I don’t know if I really bought into the belief that it could actually happen this quick.”
Australia’s Peter Senior closed with a 4-under 68 to finish at 11-under tied for 10th, his seventh top ten of the year.
Steve Elkington (70) finished on 6-under tied for 30th.Dick’s Sporting Goods Open Final Results