Indiana's Bell Outlasts McGraw In Final, 1 up

 

Newburgh, Ind. – Mike Bell, 59, of Indianapolis, Ind., made an 8-foot putt for par on the 18th hole Thursday to win the 2006 USGA Senior Amateur Championship, 1 up, over Tom McGraw, 55, of Montgomery, Texas, at Victoria National Golf Club.

With the match all square on the water-lined par-4 18th, Bell knocked his second shot into a greenside bunker but hit his recovery to 8 feet. McGraw missed the green short and right from the fairway. His pitch settled 15 feet below the hole and he missed the par attempt. Bell then converted his putt for the championship, followed by a leap of joy.

Mike Bell won the Senior Amateur on Victoria National Golf Club, a difficult course, that he has played more than a dozen times. (Robert Walker/USGA)

"Outside of marrying my wife, this is the greatest day in my life,” Bell said. “I love this trophy. Can I keep it?”

Bell, the owner of a school services company, built a 3-up lead through six holes despite losing the seventh hole with a bogey. He returned his advantage to three holes when McGraw double bogeyed the eighth.

McGraw, a commercial banker playing in his first Senior Amateur but his 11th USGA championship, slowly made a surge on the second nine holes.

He made a winning birdie from 15 feet on the par-5 10th. McGraw also won the 12th when Bell could not escape from a buried greenside lie that resulted in a double bogey to cut the Texan’s deficit to one hole.

On the 15th, both players had birdie putts of similar length. Playing first, McGraw, a two-time Colorado Mid-Amateur and Publinks winner, made his 15-footer and Bell missed to square the match. They halved the 16th and also the 17th, when both players missed short par putts.

The winner of the 2006 Indiana State Senior Amateur and the Senior Porter Cup, Bell received his place in the field when Jerry Jackson of Kokomo, Ind., withdrew because of some family health concerns. Bell duplicated the feat of 2002 champion Greg Reynolds of Grand Blanc, Mich., who also won as an alternate.

Bell spends some of the winter months in Florida and practices more than he plays.

"My friends ask why I practice and don’t play and I told them that I wanted to have a chance at being the Senior Amateur champion,” Bell said. “Everybody thought I was crazy but I kept getting better. So, to actually win it is beyond my wildest dreams.”

McGraw, a commercial banker playing in his first Senior Amateur but his 11th USGA championship, was clearly disappointed. He survived a seven-way playoff for the final six berths in the field of match play.

"I made lots of mistakes,” said McGraw, who has experience in more than 10 USGA championships. “I played very poorly (Thursday). I wasn’t nervous. I didn’t get it done. I didn’t get it in the hole when I needed to.”

Champion Mike Bell (black shirt) embrances his playing competitor Tom McGraw after holing the winning putt on the 18th hole of the final of the USGA Senior Amateur. (Robert Walker/USGA)

Bell became the first champion to win in his home state since Chicago’s Bill Shean won the 1998 championship at Skokie (Ill.) Country Club.

Each one of the finalists, en route to the last match, defeated one of the co-medalists. Bell beat Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., 4 and 3, in the quarterfinals. McGraw beat Bill Leonard of Kennesaw, Ga., 4 and 3, in the semifinals. In his semifinal match, Bell defeated 2003 quarterfinalist Sam Farlow, 59, of Birmingham, Ala., 4 and 2.

Both the semifinal and final rounds were played Thursday to make up for the time lost during Monday’s heavy rainstorm, which postponed play.

The champion receives a gold medal and custody of the Frederick L. Dold Trophy for the ensuing year.

Semifinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2007 U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. Quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2007 USGA Senior Amateur at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan.

The USGA Senior Amateur, for players 55 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA.

Story written by Pete Kowalski of USGA Media Relations. E-mail him with questions and comments at pkowalski@usga.org.

Results

Results from Thursday’s semifinal and final rounds of match play at the 2006 USGA Senior Amateur, conducted by the United States Golf Association, at Victoria National Golf Club (6,760 and 6,766 yards, par 72):

Semifinal Round

Tom McGraw, Montgomery, Texas  (156) def. Bill Leonard, Kennesaw, Ga.  (143), 4 and 3

Mike Bell, Indianapolis, Ind.  (148) def. Sam Farlow, Birmingham, Ala.  (146), 4 and 2

Final Round

Mike Bell, Indianapolis, Ind.  (148) def. Tom McGraw, Montgomery, Texas  (156), 1 up

 

 

 
Championship Facts

USGA Senior Amateur Championship

PAR AND YARDAGE Victoria National Golf Club will be set up at 6,760/6,766 yards and par 36-3672.

COURSE SETUP:
Teeing ground Height of grass .30 inches
Fairways Height of grass .55 inches
Green approaches and closely mown areas Height of grass – .425 inches
Collars around greens Height of grass – .375 inches
Intermediate rough 1 inches and 6-feet wide
Primary rough 2-3 inches
Putting greens USGA Stimpmeter reading of 10.5 feet

The USGA championship setup results in a USGA Course Rating of 73.1 and a USGA Slope Rating® of 139.

VENUE Victoria National Golf Club, east of Evansville, Ind., was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 1998. The course was the project of the late Terry Friedman, a well-known Indiana entrepreneur.

Victoria National, which has the feel of a links course due to large mounds and contoured fairways, was built around an existing surface coal mine. As a result, water-filled lakes serve as hazards on 15 of the 18 holes.

HISTORY The USGA Senior Amateur Championship was first played in 1955. The 2006 Senior Amateur Championship will be the 52nd.

SCHEDULE Stroke play rounds will be played Sept. 16-17 (Saturday-Sunday). Following two days of stroke play, the field of 156 golfers will be reduced to the lowest 64 scorers, who will advance to match play. The match play portion of the championship runs from Sept. 18-21 (Monday-Thursday). The first round is set for Sept. 18 (9:30 a.m. CDT start); the second and third rounds for Sept. 19 (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. 20. The 18-hole, match-play final (9 a.m.) is scheduled for Sept. 21.

TICKETS Admission and parking are free for all six days of the championship.

 

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