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Mike Rice

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 in the final of the 2005 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at the Farm Golf Club in Rocky Face, Ga.

"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, was treated by a local doctor that evening. "He was up a lot that 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 consistent 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, a former SMU football player. "But I putted well on the backside. That was a big thing."

On the short par-416th, Bemowski hit a wedge shot to within 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 hole. 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 try settled 21/z feet away. Following Bemowski's miss for par, Rice sank the putt for the championship.

"How many 2 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'/z -5-footer coming back. It summed up the day."


Championship Facts

USGA Senior Amateur

WHO CAN PLAY The USGA Senior Amateur Championship is open to amateurs who will have reached their 55th birthday on or before Sept. 20, 2008, and who have a USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 7.4.

ENTRIES Entries for the 2008 championship closed Aug. 6. The USGA accepted 2,393 entries for the 2008 USGA Senior Amateur Championship. It marked the eighth consecutive year entries topped 2,200. The record of 2,498 entries was set in 2005.

SECTIONAL QUALIFYING Sectional qualifying (18 holes) was conducted Aug. 15 - Sept. 2 at 50 sites across the country. For complete results, click here.

CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY This will be the 54th USGA Senior Amateur Championship. It was first played in 1955.

SCHEDULE Practice rounds will be held Sept. 18 (Thursday) and Sept. 19 (Friday). The starting field of 156 players will play two rounds of stroke play, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play. The schedule is as follows:

  • Sept. 20 (Saturday) First round of stroke play
  • Sept. 21 (Sunday) Second round of stroke play
  • Sept. 22 (Monday) First round of match play
  • Sept. 23 (Tuesday) Second and third rounds of match play
  • Sept. 24 (Wednesday) Quarterfinals and semifinals, match play
  • Sept. 25 (Thursday) Final, match play (18 holes)
  • PAR AND YARDAGE Shady Oaks Country Club will be set up 6,597 (stroke play)/6,679 (match play) yards and par 35-36-71.

    COURSE SET-UP The fairways will measure 0.40-0.50 inches in height. The intermediate rough will measure 1 inches, with a width of approximately 6 feet. The primary rough will stand 2 inches high. The greens will measure approximately 10.5 feet on the Stimpmeter.

    COURSE RATING AND SLOPE The USGA Course RatingTM for Shady Oaks Country Club is 73.0; Slope Rating® is 137.



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