Courtesy Bill McGrath/Niagara Gazette [email protected]
LEWISTON — Talk about a season for the ages or at least for 2023 for Rick Stimmel. The first-time Senior Porter Cup player won his eighth tournament of the season on Friday but he had to work overtime to get it done.
He and former champion Steve Maddalena tied at 3-over 213 going head-to-head in the final round to set up a playoff at the par-3 18th hole.
Stimmel appeared to be in trouble when his tee shot landed in the right front bunker. Maddalena set up from about 25 feet from the pin.
“Ten minutes beforehand, I hit a 7-iron, it’s 187 yards, and I hit it pin high to the right,” Stimmel said. “Then I hit that shot hard (into the bunker) and it must have come up 10 yards short. That wind must have switched around because its was right in our face.”
With a handful or spectators watching, Stimmel chipped out of the bunker to about two feet from the hole.
“That bunker shot was a pretty good one,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t say much very often but that was a good one.”
Maddalena, playing in his third Porter Cup, had a chance to win his second title by making his long birdie putt but three-putted from about five feet to open the door for Stimmel’s clinching par putt.
“I thought it was more uphill than it was,” Maddalena said of his birdie miss.
Stimmel, a well-regarded player from Pittsburgh, got off to a shaky start with a three-putt bogey on the first hole and then made a seven-footer for birdie at the second hole. He bogeyed the ninth before recovering with birdies at 10, where he chipped in from the back of the green, and 11 on a chip from a bunker to a foot away.
A bogey at the par-5 13th reduced his lead to a stroke before Maddalena birdied 14 and 15 on short putts. Stimmel birdied 15 as well and they were tied until Maddalena bogeyed 17 and tied again when Stimmel bogeyed 18.
The victory left Stimmel amazed at the season he has enjoyed. His list is impressive.
“I have won three professional events as an amateur, I won our State Senior Amateur. I won the Tri-State Open, the Tri-State Amateur … and I won this. I won eight tournaments in a year. Like if you win once, you’re pretty happy. Twice is kind of a fluke. But I have it going in the right direction just in time for the winter.”
Second-round leader Tony Hejna tied for fifth with Andy Bernatovicz of Grand Island and Tripp Davis at 219.
• James Starnes of Fort Myers, Florida, held off three competitors in the Super Seniors with a 6-over 216. Patrick Dugan, Michael Hughes and Marcus Beck tied for second at 217. Michael McNulty of Buffalo finished fifth at 219.
• Robert DeWitt of East Amherst led the way in the Legends Division. His final round 73 for a 220 topped James Smith Orchard Park by two strokes.
Randy Reifers of Milford, Ohio, won the Super Legends for players over 75 with a final round 72 for a 216, three shots clear of John Blank.