ENDICOTT, N.Y. (AP) — Willie Wood struggled for so long that when he finally notched that breakthrough victory he knew exactly where to celebrate. No need for anything lavish.
"I went to a Wendy's drive-thru for dinner," Wood said, recalling the aftermath of his triumph a year ago at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open after making the field as an open qualifier. "That was exciting."
And career changing. The Champions Tour win at En-Joie Golf Club ended a victory drought of more than 16 years.
"It boosted my confidence level," said Wood, who beat Michael Allen on the first hole of a playoff. "It's fun to feel good about your game. Probably the worst thing is expectations change. Not just expectations for me, expectations from other people. I used to get texts from other people when I'd finish 25th in a tournament saying, 'well done.'"
"Now, if I finish 25th it's, 'Hang in there. It'll be OK next week.'"
Wood followed his first victory on the senior tour with a third-place finish at the Boeing Classic in Seattle, missing a playoff there by one shot, then came from five strokes back to win the inaugural Pacific Links Hawaii Championship.
Two wins in three starts. The reward: Wood was selected player of the month in August and September.
"Those three weeks were kind of life-changing for me," Wood said. "It definitely was a career-changing month and a half. Having to Monday qualify and not know what your schedule is going to be for the week is stressful. It changed my schedule immensely. It's nice to be able to set a schedule. There's no cut, so you know you're leaving on Sunday. That's nice, and I'm hoping it lasts a long time."
Whoever wins the Dick's Sporting Goods Open most certainly will cherish the moment. He will be the 1,000th tournament champion in the history of the Champions Tour, which began in 1980 at the Atlantic City Country Club in Atlantic City, N.J. Don January, who won that first tournament, will be on hand for the trophy presentation.