Smithfield native looking for a spot on PGA’s Champions Tour (WNCN)

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Neal Lancaster’s putt at the 18th hole of the Rex Hospital Open came to rest on the lip of the cup.

Another par putt gone astray.

“I know what I need to do,” stressed Lancaster. “I just got to put a little positive thinking into it and quit being so negative.”

The 53-year-old Smithfield native missed the cut at the event at Raleigh’s Wakefield Plantation.

A last-minute replacement who got a spot in the event just hours before he teed off, Lancaster said he didn’t have any expectations coming in the tournament.

Lancaster is just looking to stay sharp, hoping to soon find a spot on the Champions Tour playing with the over-50 crowd.

“That’s the tour I want to be on and that’s where I want to be,” said Lancaster. “But it’s kind of a closed door, the tour won’t open it up for us guys.”

“You know I played fully exempt for 17 years (on the PGA Tour) and basically at 50 years old they kicked me out the door,” Lancaster said in disbelief.

For nearly two decades, Lancaster was a fixture on the PGA Tour winning once and setting a nine hole record score of 29 at both the 1995 and 1996 U.S. Opens. No small feat for a guy who taught himself to play the game while growing up among the tobacco fields in Smithfield.

“The hard thing is I started taking lessons and went away from being self taught and my game went down hill,” said Lancaster.

Lancaster says he just might go back to his self taught days. In fact, he did just that the final holes at Wakefield with pretty good success.

But Lancaster is not as young as he used to be and says he can not devote the time and effort he once did to his game.

Those days are long gone.

“You know you get a little age on you and you start thinking a little too much,” explained Lancaster. “Plus my priorities have changed. I still want to play but I’ve got two little girls, five and two.”

Gabby and Lizzie now take up most of Lancaster’s time but the golf itch is still there. If the Champions Tour would ever call, Lancaster would gladly answer.

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