Craig Thomas Wins 17th MGA Senior Open
SCARSDALE, N.Y. (August 27, 2013) – Craig Thomas of Metropolis was able to erase a four shot deficit and survive a sudden death playoff against Mark Mielke of Mill River to capture the 2013 MGA Senior Open Championship and $5,000 first place prize at Sunningdale Country Club in Scarsdale, N.Y.
Thomas' final round round 4-under 67 performance came in breezy conditions and set several Senior Open records, including lowest final round score (previously 69) and lowest 36 hole total (previously 137). He also became the youngest champion in the history of the competition at 50 years and 22 days, breaking the previous record set by Bruce Zabriski in 2007 by three days.
“It’s nice to come into the fall season this way,” he said. “The course played tough, the wind threw a whole other variable. Coming into the day in 10th or 11th place, I was just glad I gave myself a chance.”
Thomas, who last year won the Met PGA Lincoln Pro-Am, got off to a blazing start, shooting a 3-under 33 on his front nine. A birdie on the par-5 18th secured a total of 136 and he’d have to wait for Mielke, who was in the final pairing, to finish.
Mielke, who shot a championship low 65 in the first round to lead by two shots, was able to overcome a double bogey on his 16th hole and make a clutch up-and-down birdie on 18 to force a playoff.
“I played a lot of golf with Mark over the years,” Thomas said. “For him to finish the last three holes at 1-over was very surprising. My clubs were already in the trunk.”
Both players birdied the par-5 1st hole but when Mielke, who tied for low club pro honors at the 2013 Senior PGA Championship in June, pushed his approach shot at the par-4 10th, he was unable to get up-and-down to match Thomas’ par. Mielke collected $2,500 out of the $25,000 purse for his runner-up finish.
Delroy Cambridge of Golf Performance Center, a former assistant at Sunningdale for 20 years, finished alone in third after a final round 68 (137 total). Last year’s runner-up Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker finished fourth (138), while Rick Vershure of Quaker Ridge and former Met Open champ Mike Diffley tied for fifth (140).
Mark McCormick of Suburban, 2005 winner Darrell Kestner of Deepdale, and Tom Sutter of Dunwoodie shared seventh place with totals of 141.
Seven players finished T10 (141) including four amateurs; former Met Amateur champion Ken Bakst of Friar’s Head, Jon Groveman of Connecticut Golf Club, 2013 MGA Senior Amateur winner Jon Tingley of Stanton Ridge, and Dan Levinson of Bayonne. 2011 winner Mike Burke Jr. of Montammy, reigning NJSGA Open winner Frank Esposito Jr. of Brooklake and Don Brigham of Battleground were the pros who tied for 10th.
Defending champion Peter Busch finished T17 (143) alongside 2006 winner Bill Britton of Trump National – Colts Neck.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, Sunningdale greeted players with flawless playing conditions for both days. The course, which played to a par 71 of 6,560 yards for the final round, features rolling Westchester County terrain and picturesque par threes.
The MGA Senior Open will visit Alpine Country Club in Demarest, N.J., in 2014. For full coverage, including photos and video interviews, visit mgagolf.org.