BENTON PORT, Mich. — Rocco Medit still fondly remembers driving his father Tony’s Cadillac down the Pokagon Highway — a stretch of southwestern Michigan near the Indiana border — 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 make their way to Oldwood Point Golf and Country Club. , where Rocco shot a morning 74 at Hampshire Country Club 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-designed Seaport Shore, where he and the 2016 champion, along with 155 other senior professionals, will drive Thursday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship. ball.
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 1 over stroke play medalist Scott Verplank (270). 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 victory, the two golfers in extra pants (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 over $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 — A PGA Tour champion before joining the 50-and-over crowd in 2013, he won four times, including the 2016 senior PGA at Harbour Shores. He opened with a 9-under 62 and led the way with 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 into 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 about four years ago when he and his father embarked on a long and winding road for his first Western amateur after qualifying in Hampshire. Road, head to Allwood Point.
“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.
(Editor’s note: Mediate withdrew after the first round.)