Part of the appeal of golf is meeting new people and friends.
Little did Rick Stimmel of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Tim Eckberg of Waynesville, N.C., know during their practice round last week that they would not only be friends after this weekend but both would be taking home some hardware as well from the 2023 Dixie Senior and Mid-Master Amateur at Eagle Trace Golf Club in Coral Springs, Fla.
Eckberg and Stimmel got randomly paired up for a practice round at Eagle Trace Golf Club, and five days later, Stimmel won the Senior Championship Division while Eckberg won the Mid-Master Division.
“We got paired up together and figured out we have like 10 mutual friends and went out to dinner every night with each other,” Stimmel said.
If only Super Senior Division Champion Steve Humphrey also signed up for that time.
Stimmel won the Senior Championship Division by six shots after rounds of 70-74-70 gave him a 2-under finish. Only Stimmel and Humphrey finished the tournament under par.
“I haven’t played golf since the end of September,” Stimmel said. “And I haven't really done anything for two months, so my expectations were about as low as you can imagine, and I came down here, and I hit it pretty well.”
Stimmel has only played three tournaments as are senior golfer, playing in the U.S. Senior Amateur and the Porter Cup before this. He also won the Porter Cup.
Eagle Trace is a difficult course, with tight fairways all throughout.
“(The Golf Course) wasn’t really up my alley, but I was fortunate for the outcome,” Stimmel said.
Stimmel added, It’s a tricky golf course. It doesn’t look hard, but for some reason, it just beats the crap out of everybody.”
Stimmel got his round going with a chip in for an eagle on No. 8 after starting with four pars. He started his round on Hole No. 5.
“I had an idea that I probably had a three or four-shot lead, so I just played as conservative as I could coming in because I am super rusty right now, so I thought If I could make some pars coming in, that would be enough,” Stimmel said.
Mike Combs of Roswell, Ga., finished in solo second place at 4-over, and Jeffrey Scott Ray of Central City, Ky., finished in solo third place at 5-over.
Eckberg went wire-to-wire to win the Mid-Master Division by two shots at 1-over, shooting rounds of 70-72-75. Even though he shot a 3-over 75 in the final round, he was able to make some birdies on the back nine to earn the win.
“I survived some misses the first couple of days and putted well all week,” Eckberg said.
This was Eckberg’s first event as an amateur and his first-time playing tournament golf in over a decade.
Eckberg got a 41 on the front nine, making an 8 on No. 8 and relinquishing his lead for the first time all week.
“I was a little nervous today, but after making an 8, that will settle you down really quick,” Eckberg said.
He bounced back in an impressive way, shooting a 34 on the back nine and making three birdies.
“It's been so long since I played in a tournament, so to have a four-shot lead was almost scary,” Eckberg said.
Eckberg added, “After the 8, In was trailing for the first time, and then it turned into golf again. I made some really clutch putts and snuck in some birdies and got back to playing a more regular style of golf.”
Eckberg is the head golf coach at Western Carolina University and hopes this win could motivate his golfers this spring season.
“They will just focus on the eight,” Eckberg said with a laugh.
Eckberg added, “Hopefully, it will continue to motivate them and motivate me and keep our program moving forward.
Jason Lina of Alpharetta, Ga., finished in solo second place at 3-over, and Matt Giovanelli of Ocala, Fla., and Michael Anderson of Novi, Mich., finished T3 at 4-over.
Super Senior Division
Steve Humphrey won the Super Senior Division after a 4-under 68 final round closed the door on the rest of the field.
Humphrey shot rounds of 72-71-68 to finish 5-under. He actually shot a 71 on the first day but signed for a 72 after birding No. 18, but par was written on the scorecard.
“I played well, just played solid the first two rounds and made no big numbers, and then today, I got into a zone,” Humphrey said.
Humphrey started on No. 18 and birdied Nos. 1 and 2 to get the round started in a great way.
He added eagles on No. 10 and 17.
“Honestly, It probably is,” Humphrey said when asked if it was his first time carding two eagles on the same nine holes.
“The greens were fabulous,” Humphrey said. “They were as skid as greens as we have put on in a long time.”
Humphrey has had success at Eagle Trace before, recording a solo third place and a solo second-place finish in previous years.
“It suits my eye,” Humphrey said. “If you keep it in the fairway, it is scoreable, and driving is usually my strong suit, and I am not the longest, but I can keep it straight.”
Tim Vigotsky of Palm City Beach, Fla., finished eight shots back of Humphrey at 3-over.
ABOUT THE Dixie Senior & Mid-Master
The senior version of the Dixie Amateur
Championship added a Mid-Master division
starting in 2019. 54-hole
stroke play event with no cut. Mid-Master (ages 40-
54), Senior (ages 55-64)
and Super Senior
(65+) Divisions. The tournament has long drawn
some of the
country's top senior golfers to South Florida -- Doug
Hanzel (2013-2014, 2017); Brady Exber (2012); and
Woulfe (an amazing 7 titles, his latest in 2015) are
among the past
champions. All three rounds are
Eagle Trace Golf Club. You may request an
invitation at www.dixieamateur.com
View Complete Tournament Information