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Originally published Monday, August 22, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Golf

A one-man band: David Eger wins Greater Seattle event

A "who's he? " named David Eger won the Boeing Greater Seattle Classic yesterday, but the biggest winner may have been the first-year tournament...

Seattle Times staff reporter

SNOQUALMIE — A "who's he?" named David Eger won the Boeing Greater Seattle Classic yesterday, but the biggest winner may have been the first-year tournament.

The event at the TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge was well-attended, got rave reviews and looks like it could become a fixture on the Seattle sports scene.

The competition that had started with a bunched field after the first day wound up being a one-man show. Eger won by three strokes, shooting 5-under 67 yesterday for a three-day total of 17-under 199.

"It wasn't very exciting, I suppose," said Eger, 53, who earned $240,000.

Eger broke a tie with Craig Stadler with a birdie on the difficult par-4 fourth hole, then birdied three of the next seven holes. Relying on his putter, the former PGA Tour and U.S. Golf Association tournament official then protected his lead with steady, par golf the rest of the way.

It was the second Champions Tour win in three years for Eger (pronounced "EE-gurr"), who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He didn't succeed as a player on the PGA Tour from 1978 to '81, regained his amateur status, then went on to play on three Walker Cup teams and made the semifinals in two U.S. Amateurs. He earned his Champions Tour card in the 2002 qualifying tournament.

Tom Kite shot 67 and finished three strokes back.

Winner: David Eger, 17 under. Runner-up: Tom Kite, 14 under. Third (tie): Brad Bryant and John Harris, 13 under.

"I didn't think it would be a multiple-shot victory," Kite said. "You had a three-way tie at the top [Eger, Stadler and Morris Hatalsky] and everybody bunched right behind them. I really thought it would come down to the last hole. David obviously played well."

Kite led the cheerleading about the success of the tournament.

"To a man, everyone in the field was absolutely blown away with the reception the Champions Tour got here in Seattle," he said. "This has quickly moved up a lot of people's favorite list. For a first-year event, this was fantastic."

Gary Player gushed, "The venue is as beautiful as any place in the world, and the fans were as enthusiastic as any gallery in the world. I would love to come back."

John Harris, who finished tied for third with a final-round 69 and 203 total, said, "I think it will become one of the most popular events on the tour."

Veteran Bob Murphy, 62, said, "All in all, I thought the tournament was a huge success."

Murphy's only complaint was that the course "could have been in better shape. There were a lot of ball marks on the greens. They just needed to cut back on rounds before we got here."

Tour director Chuck Nelson said yesterday's crowd was 23,000, raising the total for the three-day event to 47,500. He had expected three-day attendance to be between 32,000 and 40,000.

The week-long total, which included an NFL Hall of Fame event and a two-day pro-am, was 53,000.

The tournament raised $750,000 for The Heart Institute at Virginia Mason.

Nelson said the tournament benefited from excellent weather and "a great spot on the Seattle sports calendar" because Seafair was over, football season hasn't started and the Mariners have been struggling and also were out of town.

The tournament will be played the same week next year.

Alan Mulally, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes that sponsored the tournament, said it "exceeded our expectations. ... It's just been a highlight film."

Mulally said officials from the PGA and Golf Channel told him they had never seen such a successful inaugural event.

Boeing became title sponsor of the event in June and has a four-year commitment as title sponsor.

Boeing employees got free tickets for the day of their choice, and hundreds of employees also worked as volunteers.

Nelson said he was delighted that the tone of compliments changed during the tournament. He said early compliments were that it was a "great event for a first-year event and a great event for an almost all-volunteer effort."

By the end of the week, the compliments didn't include the first-year qualifier.

"We're proud that by the end of the week people were just saying this is a great event," he said.

Craig Smith: 206-464-8279 or csmith@seattletimes.com

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