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Stankowski Wins BellSouth To Claim Spot in Masters

April 7, 1996

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) _ Paul Stankowski, who didn’t even know if he would be playing in the BellSouth Classic at the beginning of the week, beat Brandel Chamblee in the first hole of a playoff Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory.

Stankowski is the fourth player in the past five PGA tournaments to earn his initial victory. More importantly, he became the last player to earn an invitation to the Masters, which begins next weekend.

``I’ve never been to Augusta National and I didn’t want to go until I won,″ Stankowski said, clutching a fax he received from the club on how to find housing during the Masters. ``Wow. This is cool.″

Stankowski, 26, who captured a Nike Tour event a week ago in Louisiana, is the first player ever to win on the minor-league circuit one week and the PGA Tour the next. But he almost didn’t get to tee off at Atlanta Country Club, beginning the week as a sixth alternate.

``I didn’t think I was going to get in,″ he admitted. ``A ton of people had committed to this tournament at The Players Championship.″

Still, Stankowski changed his travel plans after the Louisiana event and headed to Atlanta, where he had friends to visit even if he didn’t make the tournament. Late Wednesday, he was told he had made the field _ the last player to get in _ when Steve Hart withdrew because of a bad back.

Stankowski needed a gutsy up-and-down par out of the bunker at No. 18 to force the playoff with Chamblee, another player seeking his first PGA Tour win.

On a day when the greens were lightning-quick _ ``U.S. Open-like,″ Nick Price commented _ Chamblee fired a 5-under 67 to force a playoff with Stankowski at 8-under 280. Only three other players stayed in the 60s during the final round.

But on the first hole of the playoff, Chamblee tried to hit the green with his second shot on 499-yard, par-5 18th hole. He had gone over the green with nearly the same shot during the round, but this time his 1-iron sent the ball careening into the water that guards the front.

Stankowski, who had played it safe with his second shot, put his third within 12 feet of the cup and putted in for a birdie. Chamblee finished with a bogey 6 on the hole.

``He was laying up and I figured if I could get on the green, it would put a little bit of pressure on him,″ Chamblee said. ``But it didn’t work out that way.″

Stankowski, who shot a 1-under 71 in the final round, began the day three shots behind leader David Duval. But Stankowski had a two-shot lead by the turn after Duval bogeyed three of the first seven holes.

Duval never recovered, shooting a 76 to finish two shots back at 282, in a tie for third with Price. Price, seeking his first PGA Tour victory since 1994, had an eagle at No. 8 but couldn’t take advantage and finished at 1-under for the day.

Tommy Tolles, two shots behind Duval at the start of the round, shot a 75 and tied with Fred Couples at 283. Couples, who had fired a final-round 64 to win The Players Championship the previous week, didn’t have another late charge in his bag. He shot a 73.

Stankowski is the first player to win a tournament after getting in as the last alternate since John Daly in the 1991 PGA Championship. Stankowski earned by far the biggest paycheck of his career, $234,000.

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