By Pat Kravitz
PGA of America
PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida – Frank Esposito Jr. trailed by three strokes as he approached the par-5 16th tee on the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club. Scott Berliner, fresh off a birdie on hole 15, had the honors and the lead.
Oh, how quickly a golf tournament can flip.
Berliner’s drive found the water; Esposito piped one down the middle. Berliner failed to recover and faltered with a double-bogey, while Esposito made birdie. All the sudden, there were two tied at the top with two to play.
A birdie on the 54th hole by Esposito, combined with a bogey by Berliner, sealed the deal. Esposito, with a 208, claimed victory at the 2018 Stroke Play Championship, his second career title at the PGA Winter Championships event (2010).
“This is pretty neat. I haven’t played this event in years because it’s later in the year and I’m usually gone,” said Esposito, a native of Old Bridge, New Jersey. “Playing the back tees is a little bit different golf course than playing the senior tees, but it was a nice way to end the Winter Championships.”
Esposito, a PGA Teaching Professional at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, New Jersey, made just two bogeys on the Wanamaker Course over 36 holes (first and third rounds). Both happened to occur on the par-4 2nd.
“Today started a little bit shaky, but then I got it going,” said Esposito, the reigning Senior PGA Professional Champion. “It was tough into the wind the first few holes, but I played nice after that. I had to get a few up and downs, then I made three birdies in a row on the front (holes 6-8). I played steady on the back.”
Tied for second at 210 with Berliner was Joshua Rackley of Wilmington, North Carolina. Rackley’s third round 6-under 66 set the Championship-low mark for the week. Danny Balin (Rockville, Maryland), Chad Proehl (Urbandale, Iowa), and Andrew Stephens (Union, Kentucky) each finished in a tie for fourth (212).
Just two days removed from finishing birdie-birdie-birdie on the Wanamaker Course during round one, Berliner, a Queensbury, New York resident, gave it all back at the most inopportune time.
“Scott was playing great but had one bad hole on 16 that flipped the whole match around,” said Esposito, who earned $5,000 with his win. “You never know out here. Two of the last three holes have water and 17 is a tough par 3. He hit into the water on 16 and I hit a good drive. After that hole it was match play.
“This was a nice way to end the Winter Championships.”
The PGA Winter Championships, conducted by the PGA of America, are presented by Golf Advisor and PrimeSport.
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