MALVERN, PA (September 6, 2016) -- Randy Mitchell turned 55 in April, but purposely kept a low tournament profile citing a desire to maximize family time. The Senior circuit should consider itself lucky he stayed away if the last two weeks are any indication.
Mitchell, fresh off medalist honors in a U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifier last week, turned in the only under-par score of the 46th Philadelphia Senior Amateur Championship opening round on Tuesday at White Manor Country Club (par 71, 6,577 yards). His finely tuned game proved undeterred by a pesky and persistent breeze courtesy of Hurricane Hermine en route to a 1-under 70.
Craig Kliewer of Honeybrook Golf Club stands a shot back at even. Bert Kosup of The Ridge at Back Brook; Ken Phillips of Lancaster Country Club and Glenn Smeraglio of Lu Country Club are tied for third at 1 over. The windy conditions saw the field’s score average land at 81.6.
The final grouping of Mitchell, Kliewer and Phillips begins tomorrow’s final round at 2:20 p.m.
“I’ve been playing well for about a month now,” said Mitchell of Wilmington Country Club. “You know how golf is. You build up a little momentum. I’m going out with a little more confidence than I normally do. That’s nice.”
Mitchell’s been on quite a roll lately.
His handicap has dipped from a 3.3 to a +1.3 in the last two plus months. He also ended a 17-year drought recently by capturing the Wilmington Club Championship.
“Winning our club championship means as much as any of this,” said Mitchell, who defeated both his sons Colman (age 14) and Davis (age 18), who finished third, for the title.
In addition to the aforementioned tournament successes, his only other competitive event this year was a Top 20 showing in the Delaware Open.
A greater prize lies on the horizon with 18 more good holes at White Manor.
Mitchell stated his intentions early on Tuesday, birdieing three straight holes after opening with a par. Starting his round on the back nine, Mitchell caught fire on No. 11 (par 5, 514 yards) when he dropped a 58-degree wedge from 72 yards to 12 feet and made birdie. He followed that up on No. 12 (par 3, 170 yards) with a 7-iron to 10 feet left of the front hole location for a second under-par score and then added a third straight red figure on No. 13 (par 4, 438 yards) when his hybrid from 195 yards away stopped four feet from the cup.
“[No. 13] was the best hole I played all day,” said the soft-spoken Mitchell.
The lone blip on the scorecard came after nine straight pars and 14 holes into his round. On No. 5 (par 4, 407 yards), Mitchell missed the green left with an 8-iron from 158 yards. He failed to get his third shot onto the putting surface and then three-putted from 25 feet.
“I think everyone’s going to have a hole like that,” said Mitchell. “I played well. I started out really well. I just kept it in play.”
Mitchell, who holds six GAP Father & Son titles between sons Colman and Davis, moved to Winston-Salem, N.C. two years ago. He and his family lived on Bermuda Run Country Club, a 36-hole facility. Spending time with his family on the course outweighed a desire for individual competition.
"I’ve been playing golf with my kids and not thinking much about tournament golf. This year when I turned 55, I started thinking about it more,” Mitchell said. “We were living in North Carolina, so I wasn’t really looking at the schedule. It was my last summer with Davis, so I wanted to spend time with him.” Davis is a freshman at North Carolina State University.
Mitchell, a real estate developer, returned to his Wilmington, Del. home in June.
Kliewer, 56, of Ephrata, Pa., who earlier in the year advanced to the quarters of the Brewer Cup, is in good position to register his first Major Senior victory.
He made four birdies and four bogeys to post to an even-par finish.
“Absolutely I’m happy. You can’t be unhappy shooting even par. I look at the results at the end of the day you can’t be unhappy whatsoever,” said Kliewer. “I think 74 is my best round in a stroke play event this year. The 71 today was a pleasant surprise.”
Kliewer noted that he missed one fairway all day despite the windy conditions.
If he does the same tomorrow, a trophy may be heading West with him. “It is a little bit of uncharted waters. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in this situation,” said Kliewer. “Tomorrow I’ll just try to relax and take it one shot at a time. In golf you can’t play defense, you let it happen as it may."
View results for Philadelphia Senior Amateur Golf Championship