Rice Denies Bemowski Repeat Win


USGAROCKY FACE, Ga. -- Mike Rice thwarted Mark Bemowski's attempt to repeat on Thursday when the 61-year-old Rice won 1-up in the final of the USGA Senior Amateur Championship.
'It's a great feeling to win a tournament like this,' said Rice. 'It's just phenomenal. All of a sudden you get the one opportunity, and you hurt yourself, but you end up being able to do it anyhow. It's just a great experience.'
Rice injured his left shoulder on Wednesday and was treated that night. The injury did not stop him from becoming the oldest champion since John Richardson, who was 66 when he titled in 1987.
Rice fell 2-down after seven holes, and the two halved the next four holes with three pars and a bogey. Rice cut the lead with the match's first birdie at the par-5 12th. Bemowski hit his drive in the hazard at 14 and conceded the hole, squaring the match.
The 15th turned out to be a pivotal hole. Rice landed in a hazard in front of the green and got up and down thanks to a 15-footer for par. Bemowski reached the putting surface in two, but three-putted, missing an eight-footer for birdie.
'It may not have been the big turning point, but I think it was one of them,' admitted Rice, speaking about his fantastic par at the 15th.
Bemowski went 1-up at 16 when his approach settled a foot from the hole. At 17, Bemowski hit a poor drive that did not allow his approach to reach the green. His chip came up 30 feet short and he missed the long par save. Rice two-putted from just inside 20 feet to win and once again square the match with one to play.
Each player reached the green in regulation at the par-4 closing hole at The Farm Golf Club. Bemowski had a little more than 20 feet with Rice a few feet closer. Bemowski blew his birdie try 4 feet past, while Rice had 3 feet for par.
Bemowski missed his putt, Rice canned his and Rice walked off with the gold medal and exemptions into the next five USGA Senior Amateur Championships.
'How many 2-and-a-half footers have I played in my life,' Rice said. 'You have one to win the USGA Senior Amateur. My hands were shaking. It went in. That's all that counts.'
Bemowski had a shot at becoming the first repeat champion since Bill Campbell in 1979-1980, but was disgusted at his play on the last two holes.
'To go out there and collapse and make two bogeys when you need a par, that's really disappointing,' said Bemowski. 'That's hard to swallow.'
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Senior Amateur