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Former Wake Forest golfer Billy Andrade thriving on Champions Tour

The way Billy Andrade tells the story, the phone call was made soon after the golf tournament and, to his surprise, answered quickly.

Andrade had just won the Boeing Classic, the Champions Tour event outside Seattle, when he was told Davis Love III had won the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro on the PGA Tour.

“I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me,’ ” Andrade said this week.

Andrade, who played college golf at Wake Forest, is 51. Love, the former North Carolina All-America, also is 51, although a few months younger than Andrade.

After calls to his wife, kids and parents, Andrade dialed up Love.

“Davis, I don’t think, has picked up his phone and I’ve called him for the last 10 years – maybe five – unless he knew I was calling,” Andrade said, smiling. “But it rang once this time and he picked it up.

“He went, ‘Hel-lo, Billy’ and I went, ‘Hel-lo, Davis.’ He goes, ‘How was your day?’ and I go, ‘Mine was pretty good.’ I go, ‘How was your day?’ and he goes, ‘Mine was REALLY good.’ 

Andrade’s victory was worth $300,000. Love picked up $972,000 and was the third-oldest winner in PGA Tour history. How good is that?

“Any victory now is going to be really sweet when you’re over 50,” Love said that late-August day in Greensboro.

Andrade couldn’t agree more, but wants to continue winning on the Champions Tour among the 50-and-over set.

The Tour is making its annual stop at Prestonwood Country Club for the SAS Championship. Love isn’t playing, but Andrade could be among those to watch when the $2.1 million tournament begins Friday.

Andrade is fifth on the Champions Tour money list with $1,036,851 and sixth in Charles Schwab Cup points. In addition to the Boeing Classic victory, he also teamed with Joe Durant to win the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf at Big Cedar Lodge title in April in Ridgedale, Mo.

“We ham-and-egged it very nicely,” Andrade said of playing with Durant, who had a hole-in-one on the final day as they each earned $230,000 for their first Champions Tour win.

Andrade was a free-spirited type when he played at Wake Forest, leading the Deacons to a national championship in 1986 at Bermuda Run near Winston-Salem. He helped the Deacons to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Oklahoma State and the Cowboys’ Scott Verplank, then everybody’s All-America.

“I never played a Ryder Cup, but when you win with a team it’s something that’s special,” Andrade said. “As you get older and look back, you’re a part of history.

“That day, we were pretty much dead, in fifth place going into the last day after blowing it in the third round. We were 16 shots back with nine holes to go, and we won by four.”

Andrade said a lasting memory was the look on Jesse Haddock’s face. The veteran Wake Forest coach had won back-to-back NCAA titles with powerhouse teams in the 1970s but the ’86 title was unexpected and decidedly sweet.

“He had a grin on his face like ‘We did it again,’ ” Andrade said.

Andrade joined the PGA Tour full time in 1988, won four times in his career and banked almost $12.5 million. He tied for sixth in the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and in the 2001 PGA Championship.

Andrade, who grew up in Bristol, R.I., said he was 16 when he went to a tournament to see such senior stars as Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Miller Barber and others play.

“To flash forward to 2014 when I turned 50, to be able to take advantage of what they started and created is pretty unbelievable,” he said. “It’s just less stressful. … Everybody is smiling and having a good time.”

Most of the time. In the Boeing Classic, Andrade opened with rounds of 69 and 65 at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge for a three-shot lead. But he had an early triple-bogey and struggled to a 73 in the final round, saying, “I was trying to breathe, trying to stay afloat.”

Andrade kept grinding, holding off Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Mark O’Meara for his first individual title on the tour.

Before joining the Champions Tour, Andrade worked for Golf Channel and NBC, and enjoyed it. But he likened turning 50 to “feeling like a high-school graduate again” and was ready to compete.

“This is way more fun,” he said. “That was OK but this is where you want to be, in front of the camera and not behind the camera.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

Want to go?

SAS Championship

Where: Prestonwood Country Club, Cary.

When: Friday-Sunday.

Purse: $2.1 million ($315,000 for winner).

TV: Golf Channel (Friday, 3-5 p.m.; Saturday, 1-3:30 p.m.; Sunday, 3:30-6 p.m.).