Benton Harbor — Rocco Mediate still fondly remembers his father Tony’s Cadillac driving down the Pokagon Highway, away from the Hampshire Country Club near Dowagiac, as if it were yesterday.
About 39 years ago—August 1, 1983, to be exact—Rocco, then 20, and his father, a hairdresser in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, were trying to get to Oldwood Point Golf and Country Club. Shot a 74 in Hampshire this morning to show his invitation card for the afternoon practice round before the 81st Western Amateur Golf Championship.
The Pokagon Highway is a two-lane country road that runs from Hampshire across a pig farm across the road, and the Mediates eventually head to the M-140, which takes them north on Territorial Road and west through the hamlet of Fort Mill , to Roslin Road and Point O’Woods, designed by the famous late golf architect Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Mediate, who played college golf in South Florida, held on to the invitation card that day and his father’s Cadillac couldn’t get them to the finish line fast enough.
“This ride is unreal,” Mediate said Monday afternoon at the Jack Nicklaus Design on Harbour Shores, where he, the 2016 champion and 155 other senior professionals will tee off Thursday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
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The 6-foot-1 facilitator advanced to 36 holes to secure a spot in the 1984 Western Amateur, during which he shot 279 in three-day stroke play to win the Sweet 16 and match play Qualifications. Mediate then knocked out 31-year-old former U.S. Amateur runner-up Doug Fischesser of Niles on the 19th hole of the afternoon quarterfinals to lead Saturday’s opening round by one stroke, while stroke play medalist Scott Verplank (270 par). On Sunday, Mediate defeated Fred Wadsworth by 1 point in the morning semifinals for an afternoon championship matchup with North Carolina’s Tar Heel John Inman.
Before Inman’s 3-2 win, the two golfers in extra trousers (shorts) played a fun game in front of more than 6,000 Michiana golf fans (he remembers “countless fans”). With great confidence, Mediate returned to South Florida, where he and teammate Lee Janzen (later two-time U.S. Open champion) led the school to an NCAA Division II championship before Mediate turned pro and earned his Card.
“Playing in the amateurs in the Western Conference gave me hope of becoming a pro,” Mediate said. “I never thought I’d be here for 37 years. I’ve never learned more about playing championship golf than I did in the West.”
The wildly popular Mediate has earned more than $22.5 million as a pro and won six tournaments on the regular tour – first at Doral in 1991 and last at the 2010 Frys.com Open — Before joining the 50-and-over crowd in 2013, he won four PGA Tour titles, including the 2016 Senior PGA at Harborside, where he opened with a 9-under 62, And led from start to finish, shooting a 19-under 265, three shots ahead of his good friend Colin Montgomery of Scotland.
“It (the victory) probably took everyone by surprise, including myself,” Mediate said with a laugh. “Before being a major, it meant a lot, it felt like a major. I was leading almost every day and I was playing with Colin and he was amazing and you know he’s going to tell you attack.
“Then there were a lot of runs on Sunday,” Mediate continued. “Bernhard (Lange) ran, everybody ran, I just kept going, made a couple of good putts and hit a bunch of good shots.”
Medit liked Nicklaus’ design and was surprised how low his 19-under score was (as did Paul Broadhurst two years later when the senior PGA returned ).
“This golf course is not easy,” Mediate said. “If you put it in the right place, you can shoot a field goal here. It’s a very quadrant second golf course. If you’re in the wrong place, oh boy. My short game that week was ridiculous , I putt great. The bunker on the 17th (par 3) made me feel cold. It made me three shots. I tried to hit it in the water (18) but I put It went into the bunker (and won).”
The win was arguably the most important moment of Mediate’s career, surviving a serious back injury that led him to use a long putter early (he won Doral in 1991) before surgery finally allowed Mediate to putt on a regular basis. rod. The highlight of Medit’s PGA Tour career may not have been any of his victories — he battled Tiger Woods for the 2008 U.S. Open title into the playoffs, which ended with Woods’s sudden-death 19-hole victory at Torrey Pines One of the golf courses I played as a child.
But Rocco Mediate will tell you that his career really started some 40 years ago, after he qualified for Hampshire, he and his father embarked on a long and winding road to Owoods Point for his The first western amateur.
“I remember driving past Niles, all the signs,” he said. “I remember going to Point a few years ago. It was still amazing.”
Same as Rocco Mediate.
82nd KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship
when: Thursday 26 May to Sunday 29 May (practice Wednesday 25 May)
Where: Harbour Shores Golf Club, Benton Harbour (par 71, 6,734 yards, designed by Jack Nicklaus)
Defending champion: Alex Cejka, Germany
Harbour Coast Past Champions: Roger Chapman, 2012; Colin Montgomery, 2014; Rocco Mediation, 2016; Paul Broadhurst, 2018
Information and Tickets: srpgachampionship.com
television: Golf Channel, Thursday and Friday; NBC Sports, Saturday; Golf Channel and NBC Sports Sunday.