LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Six champions bested their respective flights in Wednesday's final round of the 2013 Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships - some by way of a playoff, others in convincing fashion - as nearly 650 golfers representing 47 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and Canada convened at the famed PGA WEST in La Quinta, Calif., the largest national championships field in history. Three of the six champions won in their home state -- hailing from Fair Oaks, Santa Clara and San Jose, Calif., respectively.
Oakley Murphy (Kent, Wash.), claimed the Championship Flight (handicap 3.9 or less) by following up a disappointing opening round of 82 with rounds of 71-68-73. A clutch five-foot par save on his final hole forced a playoff with defending champion Paul Erdman (Erie, Colo.). Murphy prevailed on the first extra hole.
Largest in the field with 138 competitors, the Sarazen Flight also produced a playoff finish. Rafael Rodriguez (San Jose, Calif.) earned top honors thanks to a trusty 5-iron approach on the difficult 18th hole of the Nicklaus course on the lone playoff hole. Rodriguez strung together rounds of 88-82-84-84 to capture his Flight (handicap of 12-15.9).
The Snead Flight (20+ handicap) included no such drama, with Daniel Guerra (Phoenix, Ariz.) surging to an 11-shot victory thanks to rounds of 87-83-96-92.
The 72-hole national championships served as the Am Tour's culminating event, contested on four PGA WEST courses: the Palmer Private Course - home to the PGA TOUR's Humana Challenge - the TPC Stadium Course, Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course and Greg Norman Course. The Senior National Championship (age 50+) will commence on the same four courses with a field of more than 500 players.
Snead Flight (20+ handicap)
Daniel Guerra of Phoenix, Ariz. cruised to an 11 stroke victory after keeping himself near the top of the leaderboard throughout the week. With a slim two shot lead entering his final round, Guerra's 92 was good enough to distance himself from the field and complete his week with rounds of 87-83-96-92.
"When I woke up I felt good on the range," Guerra said. "And I felt good with my putting. I felt pretty comfortable throughout the day."
Jones Flight (16.0-19.9)
A second round 79 on the Nicklaus course went a long way in helping Nick Eason of Keller, Texas to earn a 10-shot victory. The 79 - Eason's first-ever - gave him an insurmountable cushion entering the final round. The lefty added a championship to his resume and celebrated his 50th birthday in style.
"There were some things that happened on the course this week you just can't explain," said Eason. "There were shots ricocheting off of things… I thought 'hey, there's something going on here.'"
Sarazen Flight (12.0-15.9)
A reliable 5-iron amidst windy conditions helped Rafael Rodriguez (San Jose, Calif.) to claim the Sarazen flight in a playoff. Consistent play throughout the week led to rounds of 88-82-84-84 to earn championship honors.
"Nothing compares to this," said Rodriguez. "The adrenaline of going back in a playoff and having everyone cheering and lining just like you see on TV was special."
Hogan Flight (8.0-11.9)
A first and third round 76 afforded Kevin Capps (Santa Clara, Calif.) some breathing room, and a steady final round 83 was good enough to win the Hogan Flight by five shots. Finishing 37th in the 2012 Nationals at TPC Sawgrass, Capps competed in every Am Tour weekend event this summer between June and August, compiling one win and nine other top-5 finishes on his way to winning the Hogan Flight.
"This is top of the list," Capps said. "To come out here and compete against guys from all over the place, there's a lot of great competitors out here."
Palmer Flight (4-7.9)
Johnny Frink (Fair Oaks, Calif.) shot rounds of 75-80-77-81 to edge out the next closest competitor by just one shot to win the Palmer Flight.
A Sacramento-area native, Frink won his two-day local Tour Championship in August, which gave him confidence heading into Nationals.
"I'm still in shock," said Frink. "I can't believe it. It was a grueling four days and I'm just happy I'm still standing."
Championship Flight (<3.9)
An opening round 82 couldn't steer Oakley Murphy (Kent, Wash.) from contention in his final round of the Championship Flight. A cool 73 on the Palmer Private course put Murphy in a playoff where he prevailed on the first hole to win the title.
Murphy, who credits his grandpa for introducing him to the game while he was in high school, called his national victory his top golf achievement this far.
"I like the pressure," said Murphy. "I like playing the game. It's hard to go low when it's windy, so I just tried to hang in there and make par."
About the Golf Channel Am Tour
As the largest amateur golf tour in North America with more than 7,000 members, the Golf Channel Am Tour is open to the public and provides the most professional tournament experience for players of all ages and abilities, as well as offering unparalleled access to some of the most renowned and challenging golf courses across the country. Divided into 55 local chapters throughout North America, the Golf Channel Am Tour in 2013 conducted more than 700 local championships and 31, two-day "Major" Championships throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. For more information about the Golf Channel Am Tour and the national championships, visit www.gcamtour.com.
About Golf Channel:
As the fastest-growing network on television, Golf Channel is a multimedia, golf entertainment and services company based in Orlando, Fla. The Golf Channel cable network, co-founded by Arnold Palmer in 1995 and part of the NBC Sports Group, is available in more than 120 million homes worldwide through cable, satellite and wireless companies. As part of the NBC Sports Group, professional golf coverage on NBC is branded "Golf Channel on NBC," further extending the Golf Channel brand to NBC's broadcast audiences. Exclusive partnerships with the world's top tours allow Golf Channel to feature more live golf coverage than all other networks combined, added to a programming schedule distinguished by golf's best news, instruction and original programming. Golf Channel's digital platform of businesses is led by www.GolfChannel.com, a leading golf destination on the Internet, delivering unmatched coverage of the world of golf, as well as services that help the recreational player with how to play, what to play and where to play golf.
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