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Mason 'claws' his way back, raises another Open title

Mason 'claws' his way back, raises another Open title

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Nick Mason has been here before. More than a decade ago, the 37-year-old from Parker, Colorado; claimed his first-ever professional win in the 2007 Wells Fargo Nebraska Open.

He won his second on Sunday at the Elks Country Club, coming from two shots back in third place with an 8-foot putt on 18.

Mason became the fourth two-time winner of the event, but just the second non-consecutive multiple winner in the event's 28 years.

Mike Schuchart won consecutive titles in 2002 and 2003. Peter Malnati did the same in 2010 and 2011. Jeff Klein was the only other multiple winner when he raised the trophy in 1993 and 1997.

Mason did it Sunday with a final round 66, firing four straight birdies on nine, 10, 11 and 12 before holding off a late charge with a par on 18. He had a two-stroke lead before a bogey on 17 inserted some late drama.

After he signed his scorecard and looked back on the decade-plus since he was the last champion, he couldn't help but compare life then and now. He also couldn't help but think back to just recently when he was forced out of the game for two years.

Getting back here was never assured. But after Sunday's win capped a recent run of success, Mason is riding the positive vibes to Qualifying School next weekend in Alabama.

"To win with 12 years of separation, knowing I can still beat younger guys and beat guys half my age, or whatever it is, is really good," he said. "I'm starting to play better, and I know I'm a little older, but I think people peak at different times.

"I've had a few low times the last few years, but winning this is definitely a confidence booster going forward for sure."

The last two years included surgery on Mason's face when he suffered a case of mistaken identity.

While out one night, he was pointed out as someone bothering or causing an offense to a female who went and found an enforcer. Mason had only been at that particular location for five minutes, and wasn't the guy in question, but took the brunt of his intended beating anyways.

His cheekbones were shattered and his nose needed surgery. Mason's vision then wasn't quite the same for a while, forcing him into the caddy role. For two years, he couldn't break 80.

"That was definitely a low point in my life," he said. "Not that that's a bad thing to do, but as a player, caddying is hard."

He returned to being a full-time player about six months ago and won the Southwest Kansas Pro-Am after finishing as the runner-up three times.

Over the weekend at Elks, he shot 69-65-66 to finish one shot clear of Brandon Crick of McCook. That earned Mason his name on the tournament trophy for a second time and a check for $13,500.

"I've loved to compete my whole life, and I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have golf," Mason said. "I just said, I'm older, but I know I can have one more good run. Some guys can play well from 35 to 40, and that's what I'm hoping to do.

"To claw back and win again at this level, is huge from where I was at because I didn't think it was going to happen."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com.

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