Lake Orion's Tom Gillis 'pleased' with third-place finish

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Tom Gillis

Two Sundays ago, dinner was steak.

This Sunday, it was salad.

“Yeah, steak is only for those who qualify for the next event,” Tom Gillis, one of the newest players on the Champions Tour, said with a laugh.

Gillis, of Lake Orion, shot a 5-under 67 to finish tied for third at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open in Endicott, N.Y., on Sunday. It was his second third-place tie in two Champions Tour events since turning 50 in July.

The last time out, his finish at the 3M Championship outside Minneapolis earned him an automatic spot in the next event, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open.

This time, though, he was beaten out for the automatic exemption into the next event by Michael Bradley, who finished in second place Sunday, one stroke behind winner Bart Bryant.

The Champions Tour rule is the highest top-10 finisher who’s not already exempt into the next event earns the spot. Bradley beat Gillis by two strokes.

So Gillis will fly out of New York Monday, heading for Washington State, the site of this week’s Boeing Classic in Snoqualmie. Gillis will compete in the Tuesday qualifier, at which four players will earn spots in the tournament. Grand Rapids’ Tom Werkmeister, a Warren native who now lives in West Michigan and is attempting to make it on the Champions Tour, also will compete in the qualifier.

Gillis won his qualifier into the 3M, where he finished tied for third and won $115,000. On Sunday, he earned $135,000 — a nice little bump, especially considering the airlines sacked him with a $1,666 change fee on his flight out to Washington.

Gillis shot rounds of 67, 69 and 67 in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, and feels like he’s getting oh so close to the winner’s circle — which eluded him in all those years grinding it out on the PGA Tour.

“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “This was an average putting week. If I would’ve had a good putting week, we could’ve done it.

“But it’s hard to put it all together. That’s why the pros don’t win every week.

“But I’m pleased.”

Gillis is making steady progress toward securing his Champions Tour card for next season. After just two events, he’s already 51st on the season’s money list, with nine tournaments to go — including the inaugural Ally Challenge in Grand Blanc in September. Gillis already has received an exemption into that tournament, should he need it.

If Gillis can finish the season inside the top 54, he would have some status for next season. If he were to manage to win a tournament, he would automatically earn his card for next season, and avoid fall qualifying school.

Bryant made a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open for the second time in six years. With playing partner Bradley facing a 7-foot birdie putt that he would make, the 55-year-old Bryant rolled in the left-to-right breaking putt for a 7-under 65 and a one-stroke victory.

Also the 2013 winner at En-Joie Golf Club, Bryant made six birdies in a nine-hole stretch from the third to the 11th and had six straight pars before the winning putt on the par-4 18th.

“I played awfully well, I didn’t hit a bad shot today,” Bryant said.

Bryant finished at 16-under 200. The three-time PGA Tour winner’s only senior victories have come at En-Joie, the site of the PGA Tour’s B.C. Open from 1972-2005.

The 52-year-old Bradley is winless on the 50-and-over tour.

Gillis and Marco Dawson (68) were 13 under, a stroke ahead of Paul Goydos (65), Kenny Perry (67) and Mark Calcavecchia (67).

Ally Challenge

What: Inaugural Champions Tour event

When: Sept. 14-16

Where: Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc

Purse: $2 million

Field: John Daly, Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Mark O’Meara, Kenny Perry, Jerry Kelly, Rocco Mediate and Tom Gillis are among the early commitments


Associated Pres contributed