2015 champ Michael Mercier (Ron Gaines/Golfweek)
SANFORD, N.C. — In many ways, Mike Mercier personifies senior amateur golf. He’s a successful businessman who is looking to win tournaments.
Mercier, of Juno Beach, Fla., scored a 5-and-4 victory over senior legend Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday to win the senior-division title of the Golfweek Senior National Match Play Championship at Tobacco Road Golf Club.
"I take the game seriously," said Mercier, who owns mortgage lender Normandy Corp. and works on his game with instructor Mike Bender. “I’ve spent a lot of time working on my game, especially ‘the process,’ and it’s starting to pay off.”
Mercier won five matches en route to the title, including a 4-and-3 semifinal victory against long-hitting Jack Hall, a former Georgia Senior Amateur champion from Sea Island.
"I'd love another shot at him," Hall said before returning home to compete in the Georgia Senior Amateur. "He (Mercier) was on his game today, and I just wasn't up to my best."
Mercier's championship match was set up when Simson defeated Alabama's Steve Hudson, 1 up, in the semifinals.
Simson, the winner of 200-plus tournaments worldwide, including having swept the British, U.S., and Canadian Senior Amateur titles in 2010, was the pretournament favorite.
"With his record and his victory last week in the Senior North & South,” Mercier said, “it was no surprise that he was the favorite."
But golf is a strange game, and the closer you get to the finish, the harder it gets. Apparently, that is, for everyone except Mercier, who needed only 14 holes to dispatch the favored Simson in the second-annual Golfweek event.
"It was great playing against Paul, and to win I couldn't let up,” said Mercier, who shot 31 on the front nine. "You know match play: anything can happen. I just had to stay with the process and have trust."
Said Simson: "I kept hitting it sideways on the par 3s while Michael kept making birdies.”
With this victory, Mercier will become more of a target on the senior circuit. He also won this year at the Lupton Memorial and the Chanticleer Senior Invitational. He won’t go unnoticed in 2016.
The Super Senior Division was full of surprises. Paul Schlachter of Pittsburgh, who is ranked No. 2 in the senior division (age 55-64), decided to play with his own age group, the 65-69 super seniors. Schlachter defeated Wayne Gardner of Mobile, Ala., 3 and 2, for his first super-senior title.
In the Legends Division, Walt Martin of Oakton, Va., defeated Jerry Caplinger of Shelbyville, Ind, 3 and 2.