Jim Albus held up under the pressure of playing with Lee Trevino on national television and came away with his first big-time victory. He'll never be "Jim Who?" again. Albus, a club pro from Long Island, N.Y., shot a closing-round 70 for a 9-under total of 279 on Sunday to win the Senior Players Championship by three strokes over Dave Hill, Charles Coody and Bob Charles.
"It's a dream come true," Albus said. "It probably surprised me more than anybody. I played over my head. I played better than I knew how, and that's the truth."
Trevino, who took a three-stroke lead into the final round, struggled to a 78 and finished in a tie for eighth, five strokes behind Albus.
Albus, the pro of the exclusive Piping Rock Country Club at Locust Valley, N.Y., has played in very few events on either the regular or senior PGA tours. He had never met Trevino until they were paired in the final round.
He admitted to being nervous, and looked it as he began the day by losing three shots with a bogey and double-bogey on the first two holes.
"I was tight as a drum starting out," Albus said. "It was that little fear of failure. After that bogey, double-bogey, you feel the juices running out of your hands a little bit. It was an awful start. It was like a nightmare."
But Albus, who got into the tournament with a high finish last week in the NYNEX tournament, was able to regroup with three birdies over the rest of the front nine.
"I just gave myself a talking-to," Albus said. "I said, "Hang in there.' "
Albus, who charges $35 for a half-hour lesson back at his club, said the win won't change his lifestyle. But the $150,000 will come in handy. He has two children in college, a daughter at Duke and a son at Vanderbilt.
More important, the victory gives Albus an exemption to play on the Senior Tour for one year. He missed earning a playing card by two strokes at the qualifying school.
"I was a club pro in 1968 when I won my first Open," Trevino said. "I think it's great what he did. He played damn well. He didn't look like he was about to falter at all."
Defending champion Jack Nicklaus, who designed the course, closed with a 2-over 73 and was 1-over 289 for the tournament. Last year, when the championship was played at nearby Dearborn Country Club, Nicklaus finished 27-under to beat Trevino by six strokes.
Chi Chi Rodriguez, the Senior PGA Tour's leading money winner, struggled to a 78 Sunday and finished 2-over for the tournament.
Arnold Palmer closed with a 73 and was at 6-over, tied with Gary Player and Don January.
The tournament is one of three on the senior tour with a $1-million purse, more than double the usual prize level.