Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Thirty-seven years ago, a young Morris Hatalsky was crowned a champion in Mexico.
On April 2, an older Hatalsky repeated the trick.
Hatalsky, a San Diego native, was 17 when he joined a team of top junior golfers from Southern California and went to Mexico City, where he won the Mexico Junior Championship at the Club de Golf La Hacienda in 1968.
On Sunday, Hatalsky shot 2-under-par 70 to edge Scott Simpson by one shot to win the Puerto Vallarta Blue Agave Golf Classic at Vista Vallarta Golf Club. Hatalsky finished at 9-under 207 to claim his third over-50 title, his first since 2003.
“There’s a certain feeling that you have of knowing you did something as a youngster in a great country like Mexico,” Hatalsky said. “And to come back as a Champions Tour player, a senior player, and to win again, that’s quite a feat.”
But, he added, “I don’t know if I’ve come full circle because I think I’m better now than I was when I was 17.”
Hatalsky, who held sole possession of the 36-hole lead on the Champions Tour for the first time, came to the 18th hole with a two-shot advantage. After watching Simpson miss a 6-foot birdie chance to get to 9 under, Hatalsky played it safe on the final hole.
“That really dictated me playing way to the right, just trying to catch the green somehow and playing for three putts,” said Hatalsky, who made bogey at 18.
“I was solid tee to green, but I missed some putts. I first noticed the scoreboard at 12 and saw I had a two-shot lead. I was disappointed to miss the birdie putt at 16, but then I saw Scott had made bogey at 17. I knew I could three-putt (at 18) and that’s what I did.”
Simpson said he thought he hit a good putt at the final hole.
“I just pulled it,” said Simpson, who has two runner-up finishes in six events in 2006. “That’s disappointing. I’d love to be in a playoff right now.”
Iron man ailing: Dana Quigley, who played 278 consecutive events for which he was eligible and 264 consecutive overall before missing last year’s Senior British Open, is feeling aches and pains.
Quigley did not compete at the Puerto Vallarta event because he has been battling an ailing hip, high
blood pressure and, most recently, high cholesterol, according to the Providence (R.I.) Journal.
Quigley, who turns 59 on April 14, visited a doctor in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago for his sore hip and the doctor detected high blood pressure. Quigley took some medication and became lightheaded while warming up for a pro-am at the Toshiba Classic last month.
“They took me to the hospital in an ambulance,” Quigley told the Journal. “The blood-pressure medication should not have made me dizzy and kind of nauseous. There shouldn’t be that kind of side effect. They’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”
Quigley is on new blood-pressure medication and is getting better.
“I just don’t have the energy,” Quigley told the Journal. “My game is built on power, swinging at it hard and running around the course.”
The Champions Tour is off until the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf April 21-23, and Quigley plans to be there.
“All this is going to hurt my career stroke average,” Quigley said.
Short game: This was the first event this season that players could ride a cart during tournament play. Champions Tour officials OK’d the return of carts March 9. Carts can be used by players or caddies the rest of the year except at the five majors, the Wal-Mart First Tee Open, the Greater Kansas City Classic and the Charles Schwab Cup. . . . Allen Doyle had a 36-hole bogey-free streak that stretched back to March 19 at the Toshiba Classic come to an end on No. 15 Saturday.
Lonnie Nielsen opened the tournament with a 7-over 43 on the front nine Friday. He then played the final 45 holes in 10 under (15 birdies, five bogeys) to finish 3-under 213 (T-11). . . . Q-School medalist Massy Kuramoto (T-8) had his best finish in six events. It was his first finish inside the top 23. . . . The tournament marked the tour’s sixth stop in Mexico, but first since the 2004 MasterCard Classic, played outside Mexico City. . . . The Bank of America Championship June 9-11
at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, Mass., will feature a “Swing with the Legends” competition. On Friday, 12 baseball legends will join four amateurs for a pro-am event at The International Golf Club in Bolton.
On Saturday, the baseball players will compete with two Champions Tour pros in the last 12 groups at Nashawtuc. The top six baseball legends from Saturday’s play will move to the final championship round Sunday. The baseball players will play as two threesomes randomly placed among the Champions Tour pairings.
– Staff and wire reports
On the tee
Next up: Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf, April 20-23, The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, Savannah, Ga. Defending champion: Des Smyth.