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.

Mike Rice watches a tee shot in his victory at the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at The Farm. (Mannie Garcia/USGA)

"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.

Mark Bemowski was a runner-up in his third Senior Amateur final. (Mannie Garcia/USGA)

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

 

 
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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