Nielsen Gets First U.S. Seniors Tour Victory

Sunday, July 1st 2007, 3:36 pm
By: News On 6

EAST MEADOW, New York (AP) _ Lonnie Nielsen, who didn't win in five years on the regular U.S. golf tour and had made 91 starts on the seniors circuit without a victory, shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday for a two-stroke victory over Loren Roberts in the Commerce Bank Championship.

Nielsen, who turned 54 on Friday and won 32 titles on smaller tours, finished with a 14-under 199. He entered the final-round at the 7,021-yard Red Course at Eisenhower Park with a three-stroke lead and was never threatened, taking home the $225,000 (euro166,600) top prize from a purse of $1.5 million (euro1.1 million).

He came into the tournament with one top-10 finish this year and was 45th on the order of merit with $187,921 (euro139,150). He has won over $2.2 million (euro1.6 million) since he started playing on the 50-and-over tour in 2003.

Nielsen's best previous finish as a senior came in a playoff loss to Eduardo Romero in last year's Jeld-Wen Tradition, one of the tour's five majors.

This is the third straight year a player got his first tour win at this tournament. John Harris won last year and Ron Streck won in 2005. Six players have won their first title at this tournament, which started in 1988.

Roberts, who had a one-stroke lead after opening the tournament with a 64, shot a 66 Sunday, closing with a short birdie on the 18th. His second-round 71 proved to be his undoing.

Nielsen shot a 64 on Saturday to take the three-shot lead that tied the tournament record for 36 holes. It was the first time he held the lead alone entering the final round on the Champions Tour.

When he birdied the par-3 5th, he went to 14 under and had a five-stroke lead. He gave a stroke back on the next hole but he kept the comfortable lead with six straight pars before making a two-putt birdie on the par-5 12th that put him four in front of Roberts.

Roberts got within two shots with birdies on 14 and 18 while Nielsen closed with six straight pars. Tom McKnight was another shot back after a 69-202, one in front of Bob Gilder (68). Argentina's Eduardo Romero (68) led a trio at 9-under 204 tied for fifth, joining R.W. Eaks (69) and David Edwards (69).

Jay Haas, who won the last two weeks on tour and has four wins this year, closed with a 66, and finished with a 205 total.

Jay Sigel, who entered the final round tied for third, shot a closing 74 and failed in his bid to become the oldest winner in tour history. Sigel, who will turn 64 in November, finished at 208.