WEST CALDWELL, N.J. – Age is continually being redefined in golf. Older players are performing like young men. Just look at this year’s USGA Senior Amateur here at Mountain Ridge Country Club.
Mark Bemowski, who owns a remarkable senior amateur career, is 66. When the Mukwonago, Wisc., golfer concluded 36-hole qualifying Sunday, he stood at 140 with scores of 69 and 71. His only bogeys in the second round came on 3-putts. Bemowski, who has won the Senior Amateur once and been runner-up twice, remains a ballstriking marvel.
And he isn’t the only one. Mike Rice of Houston, Texas, is 72. He opened with 78, then matched his age with 72 to move into match play.
In case a reminder is needed: The minimum age for the Senior Amateur is 55, so Rice is spotting 17 years to some of the competitors. No matter.
David Jacobsen of Portland, Ore., is the older brother of popular touring pro Peter Jacobsen. In the recent Oregon Mid-Amateur Championship, the 59-year-old Jacobsen overcame the challenge of several golfers in their late 20s to win the state championship for 25-and-older players.
Just think of what Jacobsen accomplished: He was more than twice the age of some of his rivals. Here at the Senior Amateur, Jacobsen also advanced to match play with scores of 73 and 75.
Jim Rollefson of Naples, Fla., posted steady qualifying rounds of 72 and 71 here at the Senior Amateur. A longtime Wisconsin resident, Rollefson is a close friend of Bemowski. In the 2011 Wisconsin State Amateur, Rollefson turned more than a few heads by shooting 68 to take the first round lead. He was 63 at the time.
Rollefson is also something of a philosopher. “It’s pretty clear what’s happening,” Rollefson said. “Golfers who are 70 are playing like 60-year-old golfers used to play. Guys are healthier. The equipment is better. There are a lot of very serious players out here.”
Then Rollefson turned his attention to Bemowski: “He is a pretty phenomenal golfer. You don’t see many players who are so consistent. Just look at everything he has done.”
Here’s a rundown of some of Bemowski’s feats:
• At 66, he just captured his third straight triple crown of Wisconsin senior amateur golf. This means he captured the State Senior Match Play, State Senior Amateur and State Senior Open. All in the same year. For three straight years.
Yes, he has won nine majors in a row in Wisconsin senior amateur golf.
• Playing in the regular Wisconsin Open this year, in a field heavy with collegiate golfers, he tied for fifth and was mad at himself for not finishing higher.
• He is a former winner of the Wisconsin Open, the Wisconsin State Amateur and, for that matter, the Wisconsin State High School Championship. Sports Hall of Fames in every state were made for guys like this.
“I’ve played most of my golf in Wisconsin,” said Bemowski, who still works for a living, selling various promotional items and concepts to businesses. “There are so many events near my home. It’s wonderful. Whenever I do leave the state, it’s like ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ Nobody knows me.”
And why does Bemowski still play so skillfully?
“It all depends on how well you take care of yourself,” he said. “I’m not a health nut, but I do take care of myself. I lift a few small weights to maintain body tone. I don’t overeat. I like to hit balls every day, and I like to play.
“The equipment today can really extend some careers. I can still hit the ball 280 yards. I’m going to keep playing as long as I feel I’m competitive. This game is great because you can play it this long. It’s amazing, really. I’ve been playing tournament golf more than 50 years.”
Bemowski also has the drive and motivation to win. After winning the 2004 USGA Senior Amateur title, he advanced to the final in 2005. He was 1-up on Mike Rice with two holes to play, but bogeyed both holes to lose the match. On the 18th green, he three-putted from 20 feet.
“That hurt so bad I can’t even tell you,” he said. “Every time I see Mike, who’s a great guy, the memory just kills me. That’s why every success is so sweet, because there are so many failures.
“That’s exactly what the game’s all about. It’s the eternal quest. It just never gets old.”