Winter Garden, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Frank Esposito struggled at times on Friday, but he was able to shoot a final-round, 1-under 71 to capture a 4-shot victory at the Champions Tour Q School.
Esposito, who entered the day with a 3-stroke lead and saw his advantage cut to one at one point, finished the week at 11-under-par 277.
"I've just caught fire for two weeks," said Esposito. "Once again, I hit the ball very, very well all week and controlled my distance with the irons. Even though the putter was a bit shaky today, I managed my way around the golf course pretty well."
Grant Waite put the most pressure on Esposito on the Panther Lake course at Orange County National. Waite carded a 6-under 66 to finish alone in second at 7-under 281.
"Any qualifying school is a grind," Waite said. "I managed to make a few putts early and got some momentum going, which is the key at any qualifying school. You get on the right side of it and just cruise along. Today I did everything very well. It was exciting to play like this in the final round of the tour Q school and I look forward to next year."
Jeff Coston also shot a 66 and he ended tied for third with Jerry Smith (71) at minus-6. Rod Spittle fired a 2-under 70 on Friday to finish alone in fifth at 5-under 283.
Having finished inside the top five, Esposito, Waite, Coston, Smith and Spittle all earned full exemptions on the Champions Tour in 2015. Nos. 6-12 got conditional status and the remainder of the top-30 finishers and ties are eligible to compete for spots in open qualifiers at all cosponsored events.
Esposito started the day up by three shots on second-round leader Cesar Monasterio. Esposito birdied the second hole to improve to minus-11, while Monasterio traded a bogey at the first with a birdie at the second, putting the Esposito advantage at four shots.
Two holes later, Esposito tripped to his first bogey of the day on the par-3 fourth and his lead was back down to three.
Monasterio quickly took his name out of contention, however, as he made three bogeys on his final five holes on the front nine at five, six and nine. Two birdies on 10 and 14 were not enough for Monasterio as he made bogeys on 16 and 18 to go along with a double-bogey on 17. He ended the day with a 5-over 77 and he tied for 10th at 2-under 286.
Meanwhile Waite was charging up the leaderboard and put some pressure on Esposito. Waite drained back-to-back birdies on two and three. Following a trio of pars from four, Waite drained his third gain of the day on the par-5 seventh. Two more birdies on 10 and 11 got Waite to within three after Esposito bogeyed his second hole on No. 9.
Esposito got back to minus-10 with a birdie on the par-5 10th, but two holes later he fell back to minus-9 after a bogey on 12. Waite continued to apply pressure with another pair of gains on 14 and 15, getting him to within one shot at 8-under.
Esposito got back to even par on the day and went back up by two strokes with a birdie on 14. Waite finished his day with two pars on 16 and 17 to go along with his first and only bogey at the last to fall three shots back.
With his fate in his own hands, Esposito cruised to the finish with three pars from 15 and a birdie at the last to clinch a 4-shot win.
NOTES: This is the second straight week that Esposito has earned a win. He also won the Senior PGA Professional National Championship last week ... Waite has one win on the PGA Tour at the 1993 Kemper Open ... In four official events in 2014, Esposito missed the cut twice ... A number of conditional status positions were decided in playoffs. The big one came between the 12th- and 13th-place finishers as Doug Rohrbaugh defeated Craig Thomas for the important 12th spot.