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Lietzke Has Sweet Savannah Return

April 28, 2003

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ It’s been 29 years, yet historic old Savannah is still a sweet city for Bruce Lietzke.

Lietzke, who played for a few bucks and beers in mini-tour events back in 1974, held off Dana Quigley and David Eger for a one-stroke victory and serious money in the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on Sunday.

Lietzke, plodding along with pars on the final 10 holes, shot a 1-under 71 at The Club at Savannah Harbor for a 10-under 206 total, one stroke better than Quigley (71) and Eger (67). Bob Gilder (69) and Hubert Green (71) tied for fourth at 208.

This was a far cry from the old days for Lietzke, who earned $350,000, the largest check of his career. Back then, playing at the old Savannah Inn and Country Club on nearby Wilmington Island, the winner always bought a few rounds of drinks.

``I remember one time, I had a really big lead with nine holes to play,″ Lietzke said. ``So, my pal Fuzzy (Zoeller) didn’t wait. He opened the bar right after I made the turn. We didn’t make much money in those days, and I can tell you I already had a pretty big bar tab by the time I finished my round.″

This was the first time Savannah has ever had a big-time golf tournament, but it appeared as though Lietzke, Zoeller and the rest of the Champions Tour will be making this a regular stop now.

``I’m really impressed with this venue,″ Lietzke said. ``This is the most history-laden tournament this tour has. But, it’s been around. Now, it looks like it’s found a home.″

The Legends, which spawned the senior circuit in 1978, had been played in four different cities and on eight different courses before coming to the low country this year.

Like he did in 1974, it looked like Lietzke would win this event by a large margin, too. He missed only one green all day, the third. But he never sank a putt longer than 10 feet, watching in disbelief as his ball would either burn the lip or stop a turn short.

``I was pretty disappointed in that,″ he said. ``But, I’m real happy to be the 2003 champion.″

Having said that, however, he promptly announced that he likely won’t defend the title in 2004. Lietzke, who has won six times among the over-50 set, said he wants to play with Bill Rogers in the Legends team event next year.

Gary Koch and Roger Maltbie won this year’s team competition on the 6,967-yard layout on Hutchinson Island, in the middle of the Savannah River. The Legends had been strictly a team competition until last year. Players in the two-man better-ball competition play for unofficial money now.

Quigley’s finish earned him 188 points toward the Charles Schwab Cup and put him in first place with 786 points in the season-long race for the $1 million annuity. Gil Morgan didn’t earn any points this weekend, but remained in second place with 717 points. Lietzke’s victory was worth 350 points and vaulted him to third with 593 points.

Divots: Arnold Palmer shot his age for the second time this year when he posted a 1-over 73 in the first round. Palmer also shot 73 in the first round of the season-opening MasterCard Championship in Hawaii. ... Bob Charles was playing his first tournament of the season. Charles injured his elbow last fall at the SAS Championship and re-injured it in the New Zealand Open in December.

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