George Zahringer, 49, becomes oldest U.S. Mid-Am winner

For more than two decades, George Zahringer has been one of the leading amateur golfers in the Metropolitan Golf Association and the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area. About the only thing lacking from Zahringer’s impressive resume was a national title.

That is no longer the case.

Zahringer, who lives in Manhattan, took care of that on a cold, rainy day Sept. 26 at The Stanwich Club – where he is a member – when he defeated Jerry Courville, 3 and 2, in the 36-hole final to capture the 22nd U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Zahringer, 49, became the oldest U.S. Mid-Am winner, topping John “Spider” Miller, who was 48 when he won his second Mid-Am in 1998. In addition, Zahringer became the first medalist – he tied with two others at 142 – to capture the title.

“This is the icing on the cake,” said Zahringer. “Being a career amateur and to have prevailed in this championship, well, I couldn’t ask for anything else. This is such a thrill. I don’t care if I ever break 80 again.

“Well, maybe not quite.”

He has been named the MGA’s Player of the Year nine times, winning the first in 1979 and the last in 2001. Zahringer has won five Met Amateur titles, and in 1985 he became the first player to win the Met Amateur and Met Open in the same year.

He had even proven himself on the national and international level, being a quarterfinalist at the 1991 British Amateur, the 1992 U.S. Amateur and the 1986 and ’87 U.S. Mid-Ams. Last year, he was runner-up at the Mid-Am, losing to Tim Jackson, 1 up.

As this year’s champion, Zahringer earned an invitation to play in the 2003 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club and custody of the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy for a year.

“Right now I’m thrilled beyond words,” said Zahringer, who works on Wall Street. “To have my name on the trophy that bears (Bobby Jones’) name is very, very special.”

For Courville, 43, from nearby Milford, Conn., it was his record-tying third trip to the finals in this championship. He won the title in 1995 and lost to Danny Green in 1999.The final was a tough, long day for Courville, who injured his lower back in his second match while picking his ball out of the hole at the second green. He never could get his back loose in the chilly, damp weather, and it showed, particularly on his tee shots (he hit only seven fairways). Several times, he grimaced in pain.

“I knew when the weather was the way it was, it (back) wasn’t going to loosen up,” said Courville, a four-time MGA Player of the Year. “But George played well. Yes, I think the home course helped him, but that wasn’t the main reason (he won). He’s a great player, and he did what he had to do to win.”

In the 34-hole, tug-of-war final, Zahringer won 12 holes, 10 with pars and two with birdies. Over the last 25 holes, only five holes were halved (just 11 were halved overall).

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