NAPLES, Fla. – Jerry Hudgins of Houston, Texas, and Russ Berkoben of Perrysburg, Ohio, were the big winners at the 26th annual Society of Seniors Championship (Nov. 3-6).
Hudgins closed strongly Thursday with par-72 to win the Dale Morey division (ages 55-64) for the second time in four years. Trailing defending champion Jay Blumenfeld of Parsippany, N.J., by two strokes after three rounds, Hudgins won by two at 288.
Berkoben scored his first Society victory, sinking a four-foot par putt on the final hole Wednesday to win the John Owens Super Seniors flight (ages 65-older) by one stroke, edging Bob Hullender of San Antonio, Texas, 212 to 213, after each shot 72-73 the last two days. Hullender has won 11 Society titles, including the 1995 championship.
Play was on the Talon course at The Club at TwinEagles and the Cypress course at Bonita Bay Club East. The Morey played the second and fourth rounds at host TwinEagles, the Owens divison the first and third days in a 54-hole event. There were about 75 players in each bracket.
Ted Smith of Wilkinson, Ind., a first round co-leader, equaled the low round of the day, a 71, and moved into second behind Hudgins at 290, followed by Paul Schlachter, Bridgeville, Pa., the 2007 Golfweek Senior Player of the Year, at 74-291.
Blumenfeld, the second and third round leader, sIipped to a tie for seventh with 79-293. He lost the lead to Hudgins’ birdie at the 10th hole, then hit two balls into the water coming in, for bogey at 15 and a double bogey at 18. He won the title last year at Fiddlesticks in nearby Fort Myers.
“None of us (in the final group) played very well today,” Hudgins said. “I was fortunate to make birdies at the 10th, 13th and 16th holes.” The final pairing included Hudgins, Blumenfeld and Schlachter. At the turn, Hudgins and Blumenfeld were tied with Schlachter one back.
Hudgins, 60, a dentist, won the championship in 2005 at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., beating John Baldwin of Astoria, N.Y., with a par on the first playoff hole after they tied at 285.
Charles McClaskey of Elkton, Md., the defending champion of the Owens, was third behind Berkoben and Hullender on 72-219, followed by Steve Lightman of Memphis, Tenn., who shot the final day’s low round, 71 for 220.
The Society of Seniors, an organization of senior amateur golfers with handicaps of three or less, has more than 800 members. The last of five tournaments this year, the Ralph Bogart Winter Invitational, is scheduled Dec. 16-18 at The Club at Mediterra here.
Seven tournaments, including two new events, are on the 2009 calendar. Debuting are the Spring Classic, March 24-26, at the Pensacola, Fla., CC, and The Hesler, honoring long-time member Jack Hester, Aug. 12-14 at The Farm GC in Rocky Face, Ga.
Other 2009 events: April 27-29, John Kline Super Seniors, Delray Dunes CC, Boynton Beach, Fla.; June 1-3, Ed Tutwiler Four-Ball, Desert Mountain GC, Scottsdale, Ariz.; Sept. 28-30, Fall Classic Super Seniors, Kiva Dunes, Gulf Shores, Ala.; Oct. 19-22, Morey-Owens Championship, Lookout Mountain GC and The Honors Course, Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Dec. 15-17, the Bogart, at TwinEagles.