2002: Sauers can sleep in, skip school

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Surrey, British Columbia

Forget the money. Gene Sauers is just glad he doesn’t have to return to Q-School.

Sauers, 40, ended a 13-year victory drought on the PGA Tour, shooting a 2-under-par 69 Sept. 1 to edge Steve Lowery by a stroke to capture the Air Canada Championship. Sauers earned a two-year Tour exemption.

“That’s a big, big monkey off my back,” Sauers said of not having to attend PGA Tour Qualifying School for the first time since 1997. “That is a pain – six rounds of torture.”

Sauers, who barely got into the tournament as the seventh alternate, finished at 15-under 269. He had only two bogeys all week at Northview Golf & Country Club.

Lowery, who finished second to Joel Edwards here last year, shot 68, missing an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole that could have forced a playoff. He had his fourth consecutive top 10 and fifth in six weeks – including three runner-up finishes. He is now 20th on the money list. “I don’t mean anything bad, but I was glad Steve missed that putt on 18,” said Sauers, whose 13-year gap between victories is the third-longest in Tour history. “He’s won enough already.”

Craig Barlow (68) bogeyed the final hole to fall to 13 under and into a tie for third with Vijay Singh (65) and Robert Allenby (70).

Sauers opened with six consecutive pars before a birdie on the par-5 seventh. After four pars, he also birdied the par-5 12th, then finished with six more pars.

“The last three holes I started to get a little nervous and tried to do my yoga breathing again and tell myself it’s just a game,” he said.

Lowery, playing one group ahead of Sauers, was tied for the lead before a bogey out of a greenside bunker on the par-3 16th. After his near-miss birdie putt on 18, Lowery watched as Sauers completed his win with a two-putt par.

“That two-putt on 18 was really hard,” said Lowery. “He hadn’t been on Tour, and doesn’t have a card and he played that well down the stretch, so you just take your hat off to that guy.”

Sauers won the 1986 Bank of Boston Classic and the 1989 Hawaiian Open, and he finished 42nd or better on the money list for seven consecutive years from 1986 to 1992, but hasn’t had a full PGA Tour card since 1996. Since then, he has split time between the Buy.com Tour – he won the 1998 South Carolina Classic – and a few PGA Tour events each year.

The Air Canada was only Sauers’ fourth PGA Tour event this season and he entered at No. 217 on the money list. His $630,000 winner’s check almost matched his earnings from the last eight years combined. He is now No. 80 on the money list.

Not bad for a guy who didn’t find out he would even get to play until Aug. 26, the Monday afternoon before the tournament, when he got the call at his home in Savannah, Ga. He arrived in Vancouver one day later, but his clubs didn’t make it until Wednesday because of a luggage mix-up.

“I have been playing well for a year and a half,” Sauers said, “but I haven’t had the opportunity to get out here.”

He will now.

– From staff and wire reports

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