Mike Rowley (NCGA photo)
Due to his travel schedule, Straight Down Clothing CEO Mike Rowley admittedly doesn’t get to play that much.
As for winning a golf tournament, Rowley had no recollection of the last time he’d held a trophy.
“I won our Straight Down Classic in 2017, but other than that I don’t know,” Rowley said.
The 57-year-old San Luis Obispo resident will have a quicker answer next time. On Friday, Rowley captured the prestigious NCGA Senior Championship thanks to a clutch birdie on the 18th that helped him hold off runner-up Tony Padilla by a stroke.
The birdie on 18 gave Rowley a round of 68 and three-day total of 2-under 211. Padilla, the event’s champion in 2017, came in at 212 following a 69.
“It feels great to get the monkey off my back,” Rowley said. “I really swung the club well each day. I’m very humbled.”
In what turned out to be a thriller, on the pivotal par-5 18th, Rowley’s second shot—a 3-wood from 233 yards out—landed on the right-side slope and slowly trickled down onto the green, eventually almost hitting the flagstick with his ball stopping about 10 feet from cup.. He’d miss his eagle try, but easily tapped in for birdie, which turned out being huge.
Playing in the group ahead, Padilla just moments earlier had also nearly made an eagle. His second shot did the same thing, but hit the cup and bounced out. Had his ball fell in, the two would’ve went to a sudden-death playoff.
“I tried,” said Padilla, a basketball referee who has worked the NCAA Final Four. “I lost my timing in the middle of the round. Then I just kind of decided that I had to make some good shots, and I did.”
So too did Rowley. The San Luis Obispo CC member took over the lead early with back-to-back birdies on holes No.2 and No.3. While he’d bogey the 6th, he’d bounce back with a birdie on No.9 for a 33.
From there, it became a dogfight between Rowley Padilla, Mark Morgan and Bobby Schaeffer. Morgan, the winner of this year’s NCGA Senior Valley Am, had his chances but had to settle for pars on the 17th and 18th. Schaeffer, who finished T-3 with Morgan, also was in the mix until a bogey on No.17.
Second round leader Randy Haag, who was in search of his first NCGA Senior Championship title, slipped to a 78 and T-7 finish. “Mike played awesome. It was fun to watch,” said Haag, who competed despite a bum ankle. “It was too many days in a row on my ankle. Today, I knew I’d have to rely on my putter, and it didn’t come through (he’d have five 3-putts).”
Helping Rowley stay calm through it all was his good friend and caddie, John Mitchell, a 3-handicap who’s familiar with Poppy Hills.
“He (Mitchell) knows this place pretty well. Poppy Hills is definitely a course where course knowledge is valuable,” Rowley said. “He helped me there and helped keep me calm all day.”
View results for NCGA Senior
ABOUT THE NCGA Senior
First played in 1962, the NCGA Senior Championship
association’s premier event for players aged 55 and
championship will be 54-holes of stroke play (18
holes per day). After
36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 30
individuals and ties. Pre-
qualifying required for non-exempt players. Players
must have a
handicap index of 7.4 or less.
View Complete Tournament Information