The Firecliff Course at Desert Willow Golf Club in Palm Desert, California, played host to an eventful and dramatic Golfweek Senior Division National Championship.
The 54-hole event was graced by some of the best senior amateur golfers in the nation, with one man claiming his title and 1,200 points towards the year-long race for the Golfweek Player of the Year honor.
In the final round, Ovid, Michigan’s, Jerry Gunthorpe
tracked down 36-hole leader Jerry Slagle
on Tuesday to claim the championship. Behind by three strokes to start the final round, Gunthorpe made easy work of the front nine, carding a 2-under 34.
“Things were clicking,” Gunthorpe told Golfweek. “It started out easy right away.”
Slagle was not as fortunate with double bogeys on Nos. 5 and 8, erasing a birdie on No. 2, for an opening 39.
The five-shot swing put Gunthorpe in the driver’s seat at the turn. He relied on previous experiences on big stages both at the state level in Michigan and the national level as he came up just short to Gene Elliott
in the 2021 U.S. Senior Amateur.
“When I have a little bit of adrenaline, that means it matters to me,” Gunthorpe said. “If it doesn’t matter to me, I don’t do as well. When I feel the butterflies, or whatever that feeling is, that means it matters to me.”
Finding his why helped Gunthorpe stave off a late run by Slagle. Sitting at 4 over through 13 holes, Slagle turned on the jets, birdieing three of his last five holes in an attempt to make Gunthorpe feel the pressure. Gunthorpe stayed the course, swapping a birdie and bogey to close out a round of 2-under 70 and the championship.
In an interview following Sunday’s first round, Gunthorpe foreshadowed a bit saying that he always felt like he belonged in competitive senior golf.
“I always knew that I would [belong in competitive golf],” he said. “Every time I’ve competed, I’ve done well. I haven’t competed a lot, but when I have, I’ve been successful I feel.”
Well, to come back against one of the hottest hands of the week, in Slagle while also holding off the rest of the field is a success in anyone’s book.
Gunthorpe is expected to make a big jump in the Golfweek senior amateur rankings from his current spot at No. 37.
Slagle makes the trip back to Southlake, Texas, with much to be happy about as he recorded a tournament-high 16 birdies. Billy Mitchell
, the 2021 U.S. Senior Open low-am, took home a solo third-place finish after a 1 over to finish at even par.
(1 over) of Anthem, Arizona, and Steve McPherson
(2 over) of San Jacinto, California, round out the top five.
The next Golfweek Senior amateur event will be a full-field event at the Golfweek Senior Amateur Championship at PGA West in La Quinta, California starting March 31.
by Brayden Conover, Golfweek
ABOUT THE Golfweek Senior Division National Championship
Started in 2022, this is a 54-hole stroke play
championship for seniors with a single age division of
55 and older. 72-player field limit with a maximum
handicap of 8.0.
View Complete Tournament Information