By Mike Mazur
Greg Reynolds’ younger sister told him all week that he had an angel on his shoulders. In the final match of the 48th USGA Senior Amateur Championship Oct. 3, the 55-year-old from Grand Blanc, Mich., realized she was right.
Reynolds beat Mark Bemowski, 4 and 3, in the 18-hole final to claim the Frederick L. Dold Trophy and wrap up a week that was nothing short of special.
“About a year ago today, my mother died,” said Reynolds after his round, “and my sister (Gretchen) sent me an e-mail in the beginning of this week . . .
“I did a lot of talking to that angel today.”
He must have.
As he had done all week at Timuquana Country Club, Reynolds proved that he was the strongest man in the field. First, he beat Curt Madson, 4 and 3, in the morning semifinals, and then disposed of Bemowski by the same margin.
But the Cinderella story gets better – Reynolds wasn’t even supposed to be at this event. He made the field as an alternate Sept. 24, when friend and fellow Michigan resident Del De Windt II pulled out with flu-like symptoms. As it was, Reynolds rolled into town late Friday night, and hit the course on Day 1 without a practice round.
“In the last few days, I’ve really putted well,” said Reynolds. “Ordinarily, that’s not a strong part of my game, but it was just great this week.”
As it turned out, putting was the difference. Reynolds made a 6-footer for par to halve the first hole with Bemowski in the championship match, and then holed a 10-footer for another par on No. 2 which sent him 1 up.
It was all over after that. Reynolds would go on to make four more putts of 5 feet or more over the next 13 holes, while Bemowski struggled all day with the flatstick.
“I’ve been battling my putter for several years now,” said Bemowski, a modest 56-year-old from Mukwonago, Wis., who advanced by winning his semifinal match against Bill Baloh, 4 and 3. “It really came to a head this afternoon.”
Bemowski required 30 putts through the 15th hole, where the match ended. In that time, Bemowski, a five-time Wisconsin state amateur champion, resorted to at least four different putting grips. He tried a cross-handed method, a claw-grip, even a cross-handed claw grip. In the end, however, nothing seemed to work.
“The amount of 4- to 8-foot putts I missed was really devastating,” said Bemowski. “I’m surprised I got as far as I did, I guess.”
For Reynolds, on the other hand, everything was clicking. Even when faced with a challenge, he came back. At the par-4 11th, Reynolds, 2 up at the time, faced a difficult bunker shot when his approach bounced through the green. With a quick green sloping away from him down to a pond, Reynolds blasted out to the fringe and watched as the ball trickled down to within a foot.
“Greg made three up-and-downs today that were just phenomenal,” said Bemowski.
For the record, Reynolds never trailed in the final match or the semifinal. He didn’t trail in his quarterfinal match against Bill Heldmar, whom he beat, 4 and 2. You’d have to look back to the first hole of his third-round match against medalist Billy Clagett to find Reynolds down. But he came back to win that one, 2 and 1.
“This is pretty special,” said Reynolds, who is a director of assembly engineering at General Motors Corp. when he’s not on the golf course.
“Sometimes you get to thinking too much about things that are going on around you, but this week I just tried to worry about hitting one shot at a time.”