Originally created 03/20/00

North, Colbert go wire-to-wire at Legends



ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Andy North won the fourth pro tournament of his career and his first in 15 years, teaming with Jim Colbert for a victory Sunday at the Legends of Golf in his debut on the Senior PGA Tour.

North, who has spent more time in the television booth than the golf course the last seven years, overcame blustery conditions to close out the wire-to-wire victory on the Slammer and Squire course at World Golf Village.

North and Colbert finished the two-man, best-ball tournament at 25-under-par 191, one stroke better than David Graham and Bruce Fleisher, who shot 63.

Two back were defending champions Hubert Green and Gil Morgan, who shot 65.

North and Colbert took a three-stroke lead into the final round and carried it through most of the day. The tournament tightened when they bogeyed the par-5 16th hole and Graham and Fleisher, playing two groups ahead, birdied No. 18 to close the deficit to one.

But North made par on No. 17, then Colbert sank a tense 4-footer for par on No. 18. The two high-fived and hugged, and North's first victory since the 1985 U.S. Open was sealed.

"It's a big commitment to come out here and work as hard as you need to in order to play at this level," North said. "It's something I've been thinking about for a while. To have this type of tournament be your first event is huge. It's great to come out here and play with a friend and another great competitor."

North's other two victories came on the PGA Tour at the 1978 U.S. Open and the 1977 Westchester Classic.

Frequently injured over his career, the 50-year-old North finished in the top 20 in earnings on the PGA Tour just twice in 24 years. But the senior tour has a way of opening up new doors for players, as he found out this weekend.

Although the tournament is an exhibition and doesn't count toward season earnings, the $322,000 the players split is surely real.

So is the confidence North gained, along with the sponsor exemptions he'll likely earn for the 20 or so events he plans to play this year.

"I think Andy's going to be a threat," said Fleisher, last year's Player of the Year on the senior tour. "Winning right out of the box has to boost his confidence. He played extremely well. I think Andy's going to have a good time out here. He's just another horse we have to beat."

North's next task will be to keep it going without a partner. And there was no underestimating the importance of Colbert in this victory. Aside from the clutch putt on No. 18, he kept the team in several holes when North's accuracy faltered.

On No. 10, Colbert hit the middle of the green and saved par after North's approach landed far to the left. On No. 12, one of the toughest holes all week, Colbert his a 5-iron to eight feet for a birdie after North had played himself out of the hole.

"You're playing with a guy who hits every fairway, hits every green and makes every great putt," North said. "That's a pretty good partner. I've watched him do it for 10 years."