Mark Tucker emerged from a tight leaderboard to win the Central New York PGA Senior Section Championship at Teugega Country Club in Rome. The two-day tournament July 28-29 for section players 50 and over was presented by Cadillac, Club Car and Omega.
Entering the final round, the 54-year-old Tucker (Cazenovia Country Club) held a one-stroke lead over Jeff Reader with seven other players only five strokes or less off the pace.
But Tucker separated himself from the field on the last nine holes. He sank a 25-foot putt for birdie on No. 10 then recorded five birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine and cruised to his third career Senior Section title. He also won in 2015 and 2016.
“I was like ‘Wow, is this really happening?’ said Tucker, who lost in a playoff to Rick Bronson last year at Teugega. “I made a lot of putts and I thought the greens were great. This is a great golf course and a lot of fun to play.”
Playing with Reader and Eric Manning in the final group pairing, Tucker closed with a 6-under-par 65 and finished at 8-under 134. Reader came in second (70-71—141) while Manning (Elm Tree Golf Club) and Michael Deuel (En-Joie Golf Club) finished tied for third at 143.
Tucker, Reader, Manning and Deuel all qualified for the Senior PGA Professional Championship October 3-6 at Omni Barton Green Resort in Austin, Texas. Sean Dadey (Drumlins Country Club), competing in his first Senior Section Championship, is the first alternate.
Tony Saraceno (Genegantslet GC) won the Super Senior Division with a 6-over 148.
Tucker said his stellar performance at Teugega came as a surprise considering he hasn’t been feeling 100-percent.
“I’m kind of worn out,” he said. “It happens around this time every year. After our member-guest and the State Open and the hot weather I get worn out so I wasn’t expecting this.”
The CNY PGA Senior Championship was the first time Tucker touched a club since July 18 when he made the cut at the New York State Open. Tucker finished tied for 39 (11-over 224) at Bethpage Black.
“Sunday (July 28) was the first tee shot I hit since the State Open,” Tucker said. “I didn’t know what to expect but it felt great to play like this.”
Tucker finished as the first-round medalist thanks to an eagle on the 450-yard par-5 18th hole.
“After I bogeyed 16 and 17, that eagle on 18 helped a lot,” he said. “That was a shot of adrenaline for me going into the next round.”
Tucker strives to be competitive at an elite level which is why advancing to nationals is significant to him.
“I’ve qualified for nationals five times and have gone four times,” he said. “Your performance at nationals is really important because it tells you where you belong.”
With the win, Tucker moved up to second place in the CNY PGA Senior Player of the Year leaderboard creating a tight race in the point standings. Reader (1225) is in first ahead of Tucker (1220) and Mel Baum (1210).
Two-time defending champion Rick Bronson left the state in the off-season and is no longer a member of the CNY PGA Section.