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Newcomers, Past Champions Highlight MGA Senior Open Field

ELMSFORD, N.Y. (August 24, 2012)– One of the most competitive segments of golf is the over-50 set, and in recent years some very accomplished Met Area champions have reached that age milestone and been able to contend on the senior circuit. This group became even stronger this year with the addition of three prominent names to the field of professionals and amateurs for the 16th MGA Senior Open Championship, to be played August 27 and 28 at Garden City Country Club on Long Island.

The high-profile newcomers include Mark Mielke of Mill River, who celebrated his 50th birthday on July 15. Mielke has a long history of Met Area victories, highlighted by his two Met Open victories in 2008 and 1992 and wins at the 2003 and 1992 New York State Open. Mielke also won the 1987 MGA/MetLife Public Links Championsip in his amateur days. Other rookies in the Senior Open field are two highly accomplished amateurs: two-time (2010 & ’09) MGA Mid-Amateur champion Dennis Lynch of Nassau Players, who also competed on the victorious MGA Carey Cup team in 2011, and Mike Reardon of Tuxedo, the 2007 MGA Mid-Amateur and 2011 MGA Mixed Pinehurst champion.

Along with these high-profile newcomers, eight past champions of the MGA Senior Open, along with several other players who have won MGA titles over the years, make up the field of 168 who will begin play in the 36-hole stroke play championship.

Leading the charge is defending champion Mike Burke Jr. of Montammy, who won this event last year at Crestmont Country Club in West Orange, N.J. Burke, 55, also won the 1997 Met Open and has had one of the best playing careers of any club professional in New Jersey.

There are three people in the field who have won the MGA Senior Open twice, and all figure to be a factor at Garden City. Bobby Heins (’08 & ’09) of Old Oaks Country Club is in the midst of yet another great season, as the 61-year-old qualified for this year’s U.S. Senior Open and made it to the semifinals of the Met PGA MasterCard Senior Match Play Championship. Fresh off his PGA Championship experience at Kiawah is Darrell Kestner of Deepdale Golf Club (’03 & ’05), who is also a three-time (1982, ’83, & ’95) Met Open champion. The final two-time champion in the field is 1998 and ’99 winner Russell Helwig of Essex Fells.

Other former champions looking to join the ranks of two-time winners are Bruce Zabriski (2007) of Westchester, Bill Britton (2006) of Trump National - Colts Neck, and 2004 winner Ed Whitman of Knickerbocker.

Leading the amateur contingent into the Senior Open is 2010 champion John Ervasti of Sleepy Hollow Country Club, who is the only amateur to win the Senior Open. Al Small of Fairmount Country Club enters the championship on a roll, following his appearance in the 97th Met Open and his successful qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. Amateurs in this year’s field who played well in last year’s event include David Prowler of Bethpage State Park Golf Club, Don Enga of Cherry Valley Club, and Joe Sommers of Winged Foot Golf Club.

The high caliber of the field is matched by the golf course, as Garden City Country Club’s Walter Travis design is a classic layout that tests all facets of a player’s game. The 6,700-yard, par-70 track will demand the field’s best golf, especially when navigating the heavily bunkered and undulating greens. Garden City has played host to the 1950 Met Open, the 1954 Met Amateur—where Frank Strafaci won his seventh Met Am title—and the 1969 Met Amateur.

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