MALVERN, PA (September 7, 2016) -- The Philadelphia Senior Amateur Championship trophy will call Wilmington Country Club home for another season. Randy Mitchell stepped into the GAP Senior winner’s circle on Wednesday, joining his clubmate and 2015 titleholder Steve Walczak, for the first time.
It was a wire-to-wire win for the newly-crowned Mitchell. Despite a late surge from Lu Lu Country Club’s Glenn Smeraglio, he achieved something he didn’t think was possible Wednesday at White Manor Country Club (par 71, 6,577 yards). Today’s 1-over-par 72, combined with yesterday’s 1-under 70 (142 total), earned Mitchell the hardware.
“I thought I would do well this week, but I didn’t think I was going to win. It really means a lot. It’s the biggest tournament I’ve ever won, by far,” said Mitchell. “I was a little nervous today, and this is a big win for me.”
It was a statement win for Mitchell, who just turned 55 this season. It was also a statement win for Wilmington as a club.
“The best thing about Randy, it’s not that he’s just a great player, he’s a great person. That’s why I love being a member with him at Wilmington, and we’re very happy to keep this title at our club,” said Walczak, 59, of Greenville, Del. “I’m really excited for him. He’s been a really good player for some time, but before you turn 55, it’s really tough to win golf tournaments. It’s great that he now has that opportunity to show how good he is.”
Mitchell seized what he considered the biggest opportunity of his golfing career, starting with eight straight pars. None were flashy, yet none damaged the one-shot lead he held over Honeybrook Golf Club’s Craig Kliewer heading into Day 2.
“I was getting the ball in the hole. That was an important start for me. I knew if I could keep it around par on the day, that would be enough because everyone had to come from behind to beat me,” he said.
The first bogey blemish of the day came eventually on No. 9 (par 4, 390 yards). A sprayed-tee shot resulted in a Mitchell punch out, chip shot and a missed par attempt from 10 feet. He fell back to even overall.
The leaking would be stopped rather quickly thanks to a 15-foot uphill birdie that Mitchell jarred on No. 11 (par 5, 519 yards). He then traded another birdie, after another 15-foot look, on No. 14 (par 3, 190 yards) with two bogeys on Nos. 13 (par 4, 454 yards) and 15 (par 4, 323 yards). Mitchell headed into the last three holes without much knowledge of Smeraglio’s sudden surge, which included four impressive birdies on the incoming nine.
“I thought I had a two or three shot lead (which was actually just one), so I wasn’t really making birdies,” said Mitchell, of Wilmington, Del. “I was only really aware on the second shot of the last hole when I asked an official. I was nervous and just really wanted to get to the clubhouse.”
He preceded to safely place his 6-iron approach to 20 feet on No. 18 (par 4, 400 yards). A steady two-putt led to the title-clinching par.
Mitchell never sunk below the even-par line for the championship. Equipped with his newest crown and medalist honors, which he earned in last week’s U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifier at Cedarbrook Country Club, he’ll head to the national championship with all the momentum the GAP world has to offer.
“I felt more pressure today more than ever. This is the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in, so I think it’s going to help me [in the U.S. Senior Amateur],” said Mitchell. “Now, I really want to make match play. I think the way I’ve been playing, I should be able to do that.”
All was not lost for Smeraglio despite coming up just a stroke short. He took home the Senior Silver Cross Award, which is awarded to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Warner Cup (Gross), Chapman (Gross) and Senior Amateur, with a total score of 290 in those events.
“I would have liked to get the win today, but second place isn't bad. [The Silver Cross] is always important to me because it’s over the length of the year, not just one tournament,” said Smeraglio, of Newtown, Pa. “I’m happy about that. It turned out well.”
It marks Smeraglio’s first Senior Silver Cross and fourth overall. The 56-year-old took home the Silver Cross Award in 2000-01 and 2008.
SUPER SENIOR DIVISION
Don Donatoni played trumpet solo with his school band in the 1964 New York World’s Fair. He vividly remembers belting out notes with his top-of-the-line Bach Stradivarius.
At his home track of White Manor Country Club Wednesday, Donatoni punctuated a second Senior Amateur Championship Super-Senior Division victory in dominant fashion. Donatoni finished the two rounds in a 1-over-par 143 total, eclipsing the field and his nearest foe, Robin McCool of Saucon Valley Country Club, by a record eight strokes. Donatoni and McCool both posted closing 73s.
“It’s thrilling. Anytime you win a GAP Major it’s a tremendous honor given the competition and the history of the event,” said Donatoni, 68, of Malvern, Pa., who holds 31 overall White Manor club championships, 19 men’s and 12 seniors. “To do it at my own club makes it extra special because you know the members are rooting for you. You don’t want to let them down. It’s very fulfilling in many ways.”
The previous Super-Senior record for margin of victory in the Senior Amateur was five strokes. Donatoni (2013) and O. Gordon Brewer, Jr. (2008) of Pine Valley Golf Club each held the mark.
Donatoni entered the final round with a commanding five-shot lead over Mike Rose of Talamore Country Club. Playing conservatively, using more 3-woods than drivers and emphasizing accuracy, he extended the advantage to seven shots thru 9 and even bogeyed No. 18 (par 4, 356 yards) to finish with the decisive eight-stroke margin.
Donatoni record 16 pars and two bogeys.
“I came in with the mentality of playing conservative. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of good iron shots again. The putter wasn’t cooperating as it did yesterday but I made a lot of really good two-putts and a couple of really good, five-, six-, eight-foot par putts,” said Donatoni, who hit 12 fairways and 14 greens in regulation.
McCool did his best to keep stride, but an opening-round 78 dug too big a hole to recover.
Still, second-place in his first Senior Amateur Championship Super-Senior Division has McCool ready for more.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t play very well yesterday. Even if I would have played well, I’m not sure it would have made any difference,” said McCool, 65, of Bethlehem, Pa. “You can’t take anything for granted [at this level] because the competition is very, very good, which I knew. The only thing you can do when you finish second is to work harder. That’s what I’m going to do for next year.”
The Donatoni victory also secured a fourth-straight Super-Senior Silver Cross Award, earned by the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Warner Cup (Gross), Chapman (Gross) and Senior Amateur Championship.
Donatoni defeated McCool by 12 strokes for that.
“It’s a terrific accomplishment. To do it once is a great honor. To be able to back it up and do it several times in a row is very special,” said a humbled Donatoni. “It’s a hard award to win. It’s a testament to consistency.”
Donatoni entered the Senior Amateur fresh off a victory in the Super-Senior Division of the 65th Senior Men's North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Resort. A national event, Donatoni rallied from eight shots back in the third and final round to defeat Day 2 leader Logan Jackson of Winston Salem, N.C. by a stroke.
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