Rice Defeats Defending Champion Champion Bemowski, 1 Up, In Final
Rocky Face, Ga. – Despite an injured shoulder, Mike Rice, 65, of Houston, Texas, became the oldest winner in 18 years and thwarted the title defense hopes of Mark Bemowski of Mukwonago, Wis., with a 1-up victory Thursday in the final of the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at the Farm Golf Club.
"It's a great feeling to win a tournament like this,” said Rice, a retired insurance executive who played the last nine holes in 2-under-par. “It's just phenomenal. All of a sudden you get the one opportunity, and you hurt yourself, but you end up being able to do it anyhow. It's just a great experience.”
Rice’s win made him the first Texan to win since Robert Rawlins of Dallas took the title in 1984 and oldest champion since John Richardson, who was 66 when he won in 1987.
Rice, who injured his left shoulder hitting off hardpan in the quarterfinal round Wednesday was treated by a local doctor that evening. “He was up a lot last night, watching himself on The Golf Channel,” said his wife, Becky.
Against Bemowski, who was vying to become the first repeat champion in 25 years, since Bill Campbell in 1979 and 1980, Rice was 2 down through seven holes but steadied himself with clutch putting.
In addition, the usually steady Bemowski, lost the 12th when Rice made the matches’ first birdie on the par 5. Bemowski then hit his approach shot on the 14th into the hazard and conceded the hole to take the match to all square.
"I wanted, more than anything, to win back to back,” Bemowski said. “Winning one of another is great. The chance to do it again is rare and such a real accomplishment.
At the reachable par-5 15th, Rice made a remarkable up-and-down par from inside the hazard fronting the green with a 14-foot putt to halve the hole. Bemowski, who had reached the green in two, missed an 8-footer for birdie.
"It may not have been the big turning point, but I think it was one of them,” said Rice, former SMU football player. “But, I putted well on the backside. That was a big thing.”
On the short par-4 16th, Bemowski hit a wedge shot to a foot for a conceded birdie to take a 1-up lead.
A slightly hooked drive on the par-4 17th by Bemowski set up an approach that didn’t reach the green. His pitch hit the uphill slope of the green and spun back 30 feet from the holel. He did not convert the putt for par and Rice 2-putted from 18 feet to win the hole and square the match.
Both players hit the green in two on the uphill, par-4 18th – Bemowski was 22 feet away and Rice 20. Bemowski’s birdie attempt slipped past the right edge of the hole, 4 feet away. Rice’s birdie settled 2 ½ feet away. Following Bemowski’s miss for par, Rice sunk the putt for the championship.
"How many 2 ½ footers have I played in my life,” Rice said. “You have one to win the USGA Senior Amateur. My hands were shaking. It went in. That’s all that counts.
"To go out there and collapse and make two bogeys when you need a par that’s really disappointing,” Bemowski said. “That’s hard to swallow.
"The greens got me all week,” he continued. “It piled up today. If it wasn’t a straight 6-foot putt, I didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to make the putt on 18, but I had a chance to win and to try to make it. It slipped by and I left myself with that bumpy 4 ½ -5-footer coming back. It summed up the day.”
All quarterfinalists are exempt from having to qualify for the 2006 championship at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind. Semifinalists are exempt from having to qualify for the 2006 U.S. Senior Open at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
The winner receives a gold medal, custody of the Frederick L. Dold Trophy for the ensuing year and an exemption into the next five Senior Amateurs.
The USGA Senior Amateur, for amateurs 55 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Rocky Face, Ga. – Result from Thursday’s 18-hole final match at the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at 6,763-yard, par 72 The Farm Golf Club:
Mike Rice, Houston, Texas, (140) def. Mark Bemowski, Mukwonago, Wis. (139), 1 up
USGA Senior Amateur Championship
PAR AND YARDAGE – The Farm Golf Club will be set up at 6,737/6,763 and par is 36-36—72.
COURSE SET-UP –
VENUE – The Farm Golf Club was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1988. Located between Atlanta and Chattanooga in northwest Georgia, The Farm benefits from significant elevation changes, which provide a scenic and difficult test of golf.
HISTORY – The USGA Senior Amateur Championship was first played in 1955. The 2005 Senior Amateur Championship will be the 51st.
SCHEDULE – Stroke play rounds will be played Sept. 17-18 (Saturday-Sunday). Following two days of stroke play, the field of 157 golfers will be reduced to the lowest 64 scorers, who will advance to match play. The match play portion of the Championship runs from September 19-22 (Monday-Thursday). The first round is set for Sept. 19 (9:30 a.m. start); the second and third rounds for Sept. 20 (8:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. starts) and the quarterfinals and semifinals (8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. starts) for Sept. 21. The 18-hole, match-play final (9 a.m.) is scheduled for Sept. 22.
CAN I PLAY? – The USGA Senior Amateur Championship is open to amateurs who will have reached their 55th birthday on or before Sept. 17, 2005, and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4.
ENTRIES – The USGA accepted a record 2,498 entries for the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur Championship, the fifth consecutive year entries topped 2,200. The previous record of 2,420 entries was set in 2004. The deadline for entries was July 27.
TICKETS – Admission and parking are free for all six days of the championship.
DEFENDING CHAMPION – In the finals of the 2004 championship, Mark Bemowski of Mukwonago, Wis., reversed the outcome of the 2002 by defeating Greg Reynolds, 4 and 3, at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif. In 2002, Reynolds had beaten Bemowski by the same margin.