Woulfe wins Florida Senior Azalea in playoff

Rick Woulfe (left) accepts the Florida Azalea Senior Amateur trophy.

Rick Woulfe (left) accepts the Florida Azalea Senior Amateur trophy.

Battling winds that were never lower than 15 mph and gusting to 40 mph, Rick Woulfe overcame a start from hell to defeat David Brookreson on the first hole of a sudden playoff Sunday to win the 55+ division of the Florida Azalea Senior Amateur.

Woulfe, a long-time outstanding amateur from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., drove to within 20 yards of the 320-yard first playoff hole and pitched to 3 feet to make birdie. Brookreson, from Philadelphia, who had shot 70 in the worst of the winds to make the playoff, missed a 20-footer for his birdie. Both players finished at 6-over 216 at the 5,892 yard Palatka (Fla.) Golf Club, two shots clear of three other players.

Woulfe played the front nine of his first round by shooting a 6-over 41. He had an epiphany and started the back nine birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-ace. On the 165-yard 14th, he holed a 165-yard 5-iron into a stiff breeze to return to par and advance to near the top of the leaderboard. He made two bogeys coming in for 72, which tied him for fourth behind Chip Lutz (66(, Fred Peel (70) and John Benson (71). If Lutz had gone on to win, he would have been the champion of the first two senior events he’d played after winning the Golfweek National Senior Championship at Doral in January.

On Sunday afternoon there were seven players within one shot of the lead with four holes to go. Brookreson, the most solid of the leaders, closed with four pars and his 70. Woulfe bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18, two very hard holes into the strongest headwind of the day, to fall back into a tie with Brookreson. Lutz, Rob Hess, Bruce Scamehorn, Warren Wilhite and David Anthony all made two or more bogeys to finish two or more shots out of the playoff.

According to a tournament organizer and 13th-place finisher Ronnie Tumlin, 75 percent of the field could not reach the 410-yard 18th in regulation.

“I hit driver, 3-wood and couldn’t make it. And I’m not short” said Tumlin.

In the Super Senior Division, 76 year-old Boyd Johnson, of Statesboro, Ga., shot 228 to win by two shots over Louisville’s Joe Cantrell.

“He fairway and greened the field to death,” said Tumlin.

Johnson has been a great amateur for many years and may be the oldest player to win a Golfweek/Titleist Super Senior Tournament. Records from previous years are sketchy, but at 76 years, six months and 14 day, Johnson may have the record.

There are examples of super seniors playing superior golf. Richard Anderson dominated the division in 2009 while going from age 68 to 69. Bob Hullender is arguably the best super senior in history as he continues to win events in his early 70s. Vinny Giles won the 2009 USGA Senior Amateur at age 66.

As these players make shooting their age a minor footnote in any story, putting Johnson’s feat in perspective is a little harder. The best comparison may be this: Mike Fetchick holds the record as the oldest victor on the Champions Tour. He won the 1985 Hilton Head Seniors on his 63rd birthday, exactly 13 years to the day after reaching senior age. Johnson won 11 1/2 years after turning 65. His score of 228, shot from the same tees as the seniors, would have given him a tie for 10th.

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