Tom Gillis on cusp of securing Champions Tour card for 2019

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Tom Gillis tied for sixth in the first Champions Tour playoff tournament.

There are players on the Champions Tour who have competed in as many as 25 tournaments this year.

Tom Gillis, stuck with a July birthday, just wrapped up his seventh — and already has guaranteed himself significant status for the 2019 season. He's also on the cusp of securing a full-time card.

Gillis finished tied for sixth in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic in Richmond, Va., on Sunday, to move up to 37th on the 50-and-older tour's money list. That makes him eligible for the second of three Champions Tour playoff events, later this week in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The top 54 make the next tournament, and the top 36 after that one advance to the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, and also receive guaranteed full-time status for the following season. Since the Champions Tour tournaments consist mostly of three rounds and no cut, Gillis is guaranteed a paycheck in the next tournament, and is a near-lock to get into the top 36.

Already, he is in the field next year's majors, and won't have to do much Tuesday qualifying or rely on sponsor's exemptions.


"I'm a bit surprised. Well, I am and I'm not," Gillis said Sunday evening, when asked if he envisioned being able to earn status with a limited schedule.

"The more that guys come up to you and say, 'What you're doing is unbelievable,' well it makes you start thinking, 'Maybe what I'm doing is unbelievable.'"

Gillis, of Lake Orion, shot a 3-under 69 on Sunday, finishing with two birdies in his last three three holes. If not for missed up-and-downs earlier on the back nine, he could've secured another top five finish. Gillis finished three shots off the lead; Woody Austin won the tournament at 11 under.

Champions Tour gold standard Bernhard Langer, the Charles Schwab Cup leader, finished one shot back.

It was Gillis' sixth top-11 finish in his seven tournaments; he has three top-fives and has earned $523,060. The only downside of the week: He didn't get to watch his believed Michigan beat Michigan State.

Gillis will head to California on Monday, before heading to Titleist headquarters in Carlsbad to do some driver testing. He'll then head to Thousand Oaks for the second-to-last tournament of the year with two more goals remaining: One, get into that top 36, which is darn near a guarantee; and two, secure a win. A win, after all, would earn him an invite to the 2019 Champions Tour opener, in Hawaii.

"I want to go," he said, with a laugh. "That's a plan. But I'm running on fumes. We'll see. This will be six out of seven weeks. That's a lot of golf for anybody, really.

"It's the concentrating thing that wears you out. Physically, I feel OK, but sometimes your brain goes to mush."

Twitter: @tonypaul1984