Mark Strickland claims Golfweek Senior Amateur with birdie on the final hole
Mark Strickland (Golfweek Photo)
Mark Strickland (Golfweek Photo)

Since turning 55 and becoming eligible for events on the senior amateur schedule, Mark Strickland is one-for-one. The San Diego resident’s 55th birthday was March 28. He teed it up in the Golfweek Senior Amateur eight days later and walked away with the title on April 7.

At Desert Willow’s Firecliff Course in Palm Desert, Calif., Strickland had at least a share of the lead after every round. He was bogey-free in an opening 5-under 67, then followed with rounds of 71-70 for an 8-under total.

Strickland birdied the par-5 18th hole to edge Randy Haag of Orinda, Calif., by a single shot.

“I knew it was really tight,” Strickland said of the final round. “I really didn’t do a lot of scoreboard watching, just kind of played my game. . . . I didn’t know that we were tied going into 18, so he missed a birdie putt of maybe 15 feet, and then I had one that was 12 feet and was lucky enough to get that one to fall.”

Haag and Strickland represent some of California’s best talent in the senior game, even if Strickland has only called California home for three years. He was a longtime resident of Georgia before moving west when his wife took a different job. Strickland transferred within Yamaha Golf-Car Company and now represents the Southern California territory.

In the past six months, Strickland played in the 2023 Stocker Cup and the Jewel at Hacienda, a four-ball event, but otherwise, his senior calendar is just getting started. He landed at the Golfweek Senior Amateur because it was a short two-hour drive from his home.

Strickland is currently ranked No. 81 in the AmateurGolf.com Senior Rankings.

For the time being, Strickland may be best known for finishing as the low amateur at the 2023 U.S. Senior Open at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. That finish would have exempted him into the 2023 U.S. Senior Amateur but for the fact that he wasn’t yet 55. It did get him into both the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Amateur in 2023, but he missed match play in both events.

“It gets me in the Senior Open this year, which that’s the biggest prize of all for me,” Strickland said. “I just love competing in those USGA events, any of them, but the Senior Open is a treat.”

Strickland will head to Newport (Rhode Island) Country Club in June for that event before traveling overseas in July for the British Senior Amateur.

None of this is new for Strickland, who has played in 21 USGA events in his career, including five U.S. Amateurs and four U.S. Mid-Amateurs. He played four straight U.S. Ams from 2003 to 2006, reaching the Round of 16 at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, in 2006 when he was 37. Strickland lost to Alex Prugh.

Strickland played college golf at Wake Forest from 1987 to 1991. As a sophomore, he roomed with 2011 Open Championship winner Darren Clarke. He also overlapped Len Mattiace and Billy Andrade (though Andrade was out of playing eligibility by the time Strickland arrived). After graduation, Strickland played in Asia and South America, plus teed it up on the Hooters Tour. After five years, he left the professional game before being reinstated as an amateur in 1998.

Even though the senior amateur circuit has now opened up for him, Strickland isn’t ready to begin touring again, so to speak. He’ll continue working for Yamaha while picking and choosing where to tee it up.

“I’ve been looking forward to competing with some of the senior guys that I’ve known forever,” said the easygoing Strickland, “and it’s kind of fun to see them again and compete with them.”

Super Senior Division

Pete Higgins of Mercer Island, Wash., was able to leapfrog Jim Starnes of Fort Myers, Fla., for a one-shot win after having co-led with Starnes after the first round. Higgins, who finished at 3 under, lost ground when Starnes had a second-round 65, but posted a final-round 73 as Starnes fell to 77 in the final round.

Bob Cooper of Monroe, La., posted a final-round 65, but his charge left him one shot short, tied with Starnes at 2 under.

Legend Division

Michael Jonson of Sammamish, Washington, won at even par after rounds of 72-75-69 and James Saivar of San Diego, Calif., closed out a wire-to-wire victory in the Super Legend Division at 4 over.

Results: Golfweek Senior Amateur
1CAMark StricklandRancho Santa Fe, CA80067-71-70=208
2CARandy HaagOrinda, CA50069-70-70=209
3AKGreg SandersAnchorage, AK40067-72-72=211
4MIJerry GunthorpeOvid, MI40073-72-67=212
T5MSTim RoopHernando, MS40071-74-69=214

View full results for Golfweek Senior Amateur

ABOUT THE Golfweek Senior Amateur

Golfweek Senior Amateur is a premier event for Seniors (55+), Super Seniors (65+), Legends (70+) and Super Legends (75+) with a handicap index or 8 or less.

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