Sunday's golf: Lake Orion's Tom Gillis falters late at Tour Champions

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Tom Gillis hits from the rough during the PGA Tour Champion's Shaw Charity Classic golf event Sunday in Calgary, Alberta.

Tom Gillis’ biggest problem Sunday night wasn’t that he had let his lead slip away.

It actually was trying to find a flight home to Jupiter, Florida, where his wife and two young kids were hunkered down in a boarded-up house in anticipation of mighty Hurricane Dorian.

Gillis’ first flight was canceled, so he ended up booking a last-minute red-eye out of San Francisco for a cool $2,300. Of course, he made $141,000 on Sunday at the Shaw Charity Classic in Calgary, Alberta — a nice payday, to be sure, though it could’ve been a whole lot better.

Gillis, the Lake Orion native who is in his second season on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, stood on the 17th tee at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club holding a one-stroke lead and staring at undoubtedly the biggest victory of his career.

Thirty minutes later, the dream was dashed, a bogey at the par-4 17th and a double-bogey at the par-5 18th sending him stumbling to fourth place, three shots behind winner Wes Short Jr.

“Tough losses are part of competing in sports,” Gillis told The News. “I’ll keep playing.

“My game’s good enough.”

Gillis, 51, vaulted himself into contention for the first time this season with a Saturday 64, and while he started slow Sunday with four straight pars, he found a spark with a tap-in birdie at the par-3 fifth, and then a 50-foot par-saving putt at the seventh.

His short game, his weakness all year, was on the money Sunday, with the putter, some key up-and-downs and a great sand save. He reeled off three birdies in the first six holes on the back nine, the last one putting him in sole possession of the lead when Scott McCarron, the tour’s best player and the tournament’s two-time defending champion who was playing two groups ahead of Gillis, made a costly bogey.

With two holes to go, Gillis was at 13 under, a shot ahead of Short, and he piped a drive on 17, but it rolled a bit too far and into the light rough, collecting a wad of mud along the way. Gillis pulled his approach into the bunker left of the green, and couldn’t get up and down. That tied with Short and McCarron.

Gillis then found the rough on 18, meaning he had to lay up, which he did to about 100 yards. Short, meanwhile, went for the green and got the break of all breaks, his 3-wood landing in the water hazard but hitting a rock, sending his ball onto the green.

That meant Gillis had to likely make birdie to match Short, and between clubs with an awkward yardage and a downhill lie, he chunked the shot into the water.

“I got it heavy,” said Gillis, who played this week with multiple distractions, including the family back at home, and his father, Chuck, 82, who was laid up in Clarkston from complications from knee-replacement surgery. “It was a tough shot.

“It is what it is.”

Short two-putted for the win.

Still, the fourth-place finish was Gillis’ best of the year and put him in position to make the playoffs and keep his card for 2020.


Australia’s Hannah Green overcame a three-shot deficit with a final round 5-under 67  to win the Portland Classic and deny teenager Yealimi Noh’s bid to become the third Monday qualifier to win on the LPGA Tour.

Green erased a three-shot deficit with two birdies over the final four holes at Columbia Edgewater Country Club. She finished at 21 under and won for the second time this season. She claimed the KPGM Women’s PGA Championship in June.

The 18-year-old Noh, who turned down an offer to play for UCLA and instead went pro in February, led by three strokes entering the final round and held the same margin after 14 holes. But, she struggled down the stretch and settled for a final-round 71 and 20 under.

The 22-year-old Green closed within two strokes with a birdie at the 15th and was within one after Noh made bogey at No. 16. Green forged a tie at 21 under with a birdie at the 17th. She made par on the 72nd hole and Noh dropped out of a tie for the lead with a bogey.

Brittany Altomoare carded a 69 and finished third at 17 under. Canadian Brooke Henderson (71) and Nasa Hataoka (66) tied for fourth at 15 under.

European Tour

Sebastian Soderberg won a five-man playoff for the European Masters title, sinking his birdie putt on the first extra hole when Rory McIlroy and others could not.

History repeated itself for McIlroy at the Crans-sur-Sierre club in the Swiss Alps, where he lost a playoff as a 19-year-old in 2008.

Soderberg seemed to waste his best chance of victory on the 17th green, three-putting from five feet to fall into a share of the lead at 14 under.

The 28-year-old Swede carded a 4-under 66 for a 266 total, alongside his playing partners McIlroy (67) and Lorenzo Gagli (67), and was soon joined by Kalle Samooja (67) and third-round leader Andres Romero (70).

Playing the par-4 18th as the first extra hole, the former Coastal Carolina University student Soderberg was the only player to stay on the fairway.

Soderberg made his putt from about eight feet before McIlroy and Samooja missed from closer range.

It was a first title for Soderberg, whose winner’s check more than doubled his career winnings on the European Tour.