2002: Kite gets ‘W’ without ‘A’ game

Napa, Calif.

When you’ve played golf as long as Tom Kite has, sometimes you have to just hang in there. Sometimes you win with the ‘A’ game, sometimes you don’t.

At the Napa Valley Championship at Silverado Country Club Oct. 13, Kite was able to hold off several challengers to record his third Senior PGA Tour title of the year.

“Sometimes you just got to gut it out,” said Kite, who earned his PGA Tour card in the 1972 qualifying tournament on Silverado’s South Course. “I just didn’t trust my stroke.”

Kite shot an even-par 72 Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Fred Gibson (66) and Bruce Fleisher (67). Kite finished at 12-under 204 to collect $195,000.

Kite moved to No. 4 on the money list with $1,570,147 and he is now over $15 million in combined PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour earnings.

Kite, who won for the ninth time in California (6 PGA Tour, 3 Senior titles), began the final round with a two-stroke lead over Allen Doyle. It appeared he would run away with the victory after making birdie at the first hole to open a three-shot lead. Kite had a four-shot lead after a birdie on No. 10, but was unable to make another birdie as Gibson and Fleisher closed in.

Gibson made consecutive birdies on Nos. 5 and 6, and added another one on No. 8. Then he made consecutive eagles on Nos. 9 and 10 to reach 11 under and pull within one shot. He dropped back with two bogeys on the next two holes, but made it back to 11 under when he made a 3-foot birdie putt on the final hole.

“I never thought about winning the tournament,” said Gibson, who made the field as the first alternate. “I just wanted to have a good finish to end the year.”

Fleisher was the next to make a run. He made three birdies in a four-hole stretch, between Nos. 13-16, to pull within one shot at 11 under. He had a 6-footer for birdie on the 18th hole to tie for the lead, but it lipped out.

“I’m a little disappointed, to be honest,” Fleisher said. “I hit it close a lot but I just couldn’t convert. But when I got to 18, I thought I’d have to make a birdie to force him to make a birdie.”

– Staff and wire reports

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