Larry Mize has good start in pre-tournament play at Fox Chapel

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There was no green jacket, but Larry Mize left Fox Chapel Golf Club Tuesday as a champion among champions.

The 1987 Masters winner — along with fellow Champions Tour golfers Jeff Sluman and John Cook — participated in the Champions Challenge, a charity event before this week’s Constellation Senior Players Championship.

Each was paired up with a Pittsburgh television personality and a Pittsburgh sports champion: former Steelers safety Mike Wagner, former Penguins winger Phil Bourque and former Pirates reliever Kent Tekulve.

The teams competed to see who could chip closest to the pin from about 30 yards. It was Tekulve, with a little help from Mize, who led Team Pirates to its second victory in as many years. Tekulve donated the $10,000 winning share to Pirates Charities.

Tekulve joked afterward that his team’s “knowledge of the course and experience” led them to victory.

But after Tuesday, the focus for the three golfers will turn to this week’s Constellation Senior Players Championship, which begins Thursday at Fox Chapel. All three golfers participated in the event last year.

Cook and Mize noted that Fox Chapel is a prototypical “classic golf course.”

“It doesn’t favor anybody, really,” said Cook, who won 11 PGA Tour tournaments and has won nine Champions Tour events. “The guy who’s playing the best all-around is going to win.

“Pittsburgh is known for classic golf courses and this is one of them.”

Cook missed 10 weeks because of a back injury earlier in the year, but said he feels healthy now. His best finish since returning was a sixth-place showing May 18 at the Regions Tradition in Shoal Creek, Ala.

“I love this golf course,” Mize said. “All of us enjoy coming back and playing here. It’s in phenomenal shape this year. It’s going to be a good test. The greens are slippery and it’s going to be a tough week.”

Mize’s Masters victory was one of four career PGA Tour wins. He finished 51st this year at the Masters, but he has struggled in his Champions Tour career, winning only once since he joined in 2008.

“There’s nothing goofy about [Fox Chapel],” Mize said. “Everything’s right in front of you. It’s just a good golf course. You’ve got to drive the ball well here, and you’ve got to hit your irons good.”

Mize noted that with the way Tom Lehman played last weekend at the Encompass Championship in Glen View, Ill., it would be hard to bet against Lehman this week. Lehman won the event by a stroke with a 15-under-par performance.

And while Mize wants to win this weekend, he can at least go home knowing he defended his crown in the Champions Challenge.

“Back-to-back winners,” he said with a smile. “I’ve got good partners.”

Sean Hammond:, 412-263-1466 and Twitter @sean_hammond.

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