2004: USGA Senior Amateur - Merrins’ magic sparks Bemowski at Bel-Air

Los Angeles

Mark Bemowski is the 2004 USGA Senior Amateur champion, thanks to a little tip from the “Little Pro.”

Bemowski, 58, of Mukwonago, Wis., secured his first U.S. Golf Association title Oct. 14 with a 4-and-3 victory over Greg Reynolds, 57, of Grand Blanc, Mich., in the 50th edition of the event at Bel-Air Country Club. In the process, Bemowski avenged his 2002 loss in this championship’s final.

For Bemowski, it was a bit of sweet revenge. When he was denied the championship two years ago at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Fla., it was Reynolds who was on the better end of the final, 4 and 3.

“I always felt I was capable of winning this championship,” said Bemowski, an independent rep in corporate promotional sales. “Sometimes you have to be a little fortunate (in match play) and I was in the quarterfinals. I probably shouldn’t have won that one.”

In that quarterfinal match, Bemowski was 2 down after 12 holes, but won four consecutive holes (Nos. 13-16) en route to a 2-and-1 victory over former U.S. Walker Cup player Martin West.

Before his afternoon semifinal match, Bemowski approached Bel-Air professional emeritus Eddie Merrins for some advice.

“It really wasn’t anything with his swing, but more with his rhythm,” said Merrins, known as the “Little Pro.”

“We talked a while and I pretty much just told him to concentrate on two words – set and swing.”

Said Bemowski, “I was just hitting it terrible (in the quarterfinals), and I talked with Eddie and he was kind enough to help me out. It wasn’t anything technical, just some things to think about.”

Merrins’ magic worked. Bemowski went on to beat Alan Foster, 4 and 3, in the semifinals and came back the next day to record the biggest triumph of his career.

Merrins’ help showed as Bemowski made four birdies over the first eight holes in the 18-hole final. He was 3 up after three and 5 up after eight, allowing him a comfortable cushion.

“It’s been four years (and four Senior Amateurs) of hard work,” said Bemowski, a five-time Wisconsin State Amateur champion. “I’ve prepared very, very hard, especially these last two years. My entire focus this year and everything I did was with this tournament in mind.

“It was a great match between two good friends. I’m happy to win, but no matter who won, when it was all said and done, we were going to shake hands and still be friends.”

Added Reynolds: “There was no gamesmanship out there. I’m happy for Mark. I’m happy to see him win it. Unfortunately it was at my expense.

“I’m disappointed I didn’t play as well as I should or could have. But give him credit. He played solidly, and making four birdies on the front side is impressive.”

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