Napa Valley Championship
Napa Valley Championship
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Kite claims 3rd win of 2002

Tom Kite's latest Senior PGA Tour win was a trip down memory lane.

Kite held off Fred Gibson and Bruce Fleisher by a stroke Sunday to win the Napa Valley Championship, his third Senior PGA Tour victory of the season.

The win came at the Silverado Resort, the site of the qualifying tournament where Kite earned his PGA Tour card three decades ago.

"This win was special for me because this is where it all began for me," he explained. "I had some of the same feelings today that I had at the Q-school 30 years ago when it was here. I tried to finish in the top 22 there and, like today, I just tried to finish out and not make any mistakes."

Gibson and Fleisher turned up the pressure, but Kite closed with five pars to join Bob Gilder, Hale Irwin and Bruce Lietzke as the only players on the Senior Tour with as many as three wins this year.

A former U.S. Open champion, Kite managed an even-par 72 - the highest final-round score by a winner this year - at the South course for a 54-hole total of 12-under 204.

"Sometimes you take pride in gutting one out," Kite said. "I hit the ball quite nicely but struggled with my putting stroke today. It was as solid a round as you can have from tee to green."

The $195,000 top prize pushed his earnings to nearly $1.6 million and moved him into fourth place on the money list and in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, where the $500,000 second prize is still up for grabs.

"I'm excited about the next two weeks," Kite said. "We play a wonderful old course in San Antonio next week.

Gibson fired a final-round 66 that included back-to-back eagles and Fleisher shot 67, but they settled for a tie for second place at 11-under 205.

"I never really thought I had a chance to win," Gibson admitted.

"Someone had to come from behind to beat Tom," Fleisher added. "I'm a little disappointed because he let us back into the ballgame."

It was another stroke back to Jim Thorpe, while Hubert Green matched the best round of the tournament with a 64 to grab a share of fifth place with Gilder, Tom Purtzer and Jay Overton.

Kite started the day with a two-stroke lead and birdied the first hole from 10 feet to widen it to three shots. But he drove into the bunker at the par-4 second and ended up bogeying. He also negated a short birdie putt at No. 4 with a bogey at the par-6 sixth hole that left him at 12-under.

Gibson was seven shots back after the second round but began a torrid stretch with back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth holes. After parring the 191-yard seventh, he became the 10th player in Senior Tour history to make consecutive eagles.

The first was a seven-foot putt and the second was a 9-iron from 125 yards. But the momentum ended abruptly as Gibson bogeyed the next two holes.

"Those two bogeys probably cost me the tournament," he conceded. "But this was my best finish since the U.S. Open."

Kite again negated a birdie with a bogey, rolling in a four-foot putt at No. 10, but he three-putted from eight feet at No. 13 to keep things interesting. He maintained the lead by saving par at the par-4 14th hole after driving into the trees.

"I'm proud of my save at No. 14. That was really big after the hiccup at 13," Kite said. "From that point on, every golf shot was a quality shot. I was proud of that under the pressure."

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