Big finish by Belmont Country Club’s Mike Stone leads to Senior Professional Championship win

Winning a major golf tournament is always good.

Winning a major golf tournament that you’ve always wanted to win is even better.

Mike Stone accomplished both on Friday when a stellar finish paved the way to victory in the 36th Senior Professional Championship at Shawnee Country Club in Lima.

Stone, the PGA Assistant Professional at Belmont Country Club in Perrysburg, opened with a 71 and closed with a tournament-best 68 for a 36-hole total of 5-under 139 and a 3-shot, coast-to-coast victory. It may not have been instant gratification, but it was probably the closest thing to it. Stone won a tournament that he has had in his radar since entering the senior ranks just two seasons ago. Click Here for full leaderboard.

“There are tournaments that you point to on your calendar and say, ‘This is one I really want to win,’” said Stone, who earned $1,200 in winning the event after a runner up finish in 2022. “This is one of those tournaments.”

The runner up finish to Rob Moss in this event last year when it was played at Westbrook Country Club in Mansfield, and a disappointing final round in the Ohio Senior Open at Firestone this summer – in which he co-led after an opening-round 67 but stumbled to sixth – served as motivation.

“I think I learned something from both events, but especially at Firestone,” he said. “You just have to stay patient and let the game come to you. If you hit a bad shot just roll with it and go on to the next shot.”

Steve Parker, former PGA Director of Golf at Portage Country Club, and PGA Life Member Gary Trivisonno, tied for second at 2-under 142. Parker, now a PGA Teaching & Coaching Professional, had rounds of 72-70 while Trivisonno went 73-69. Fourth place went to Tom Atchison, also a PGA Life Member, who shot 75-72—147.

As the top four finishers they qualified for the 2023 Senior PGA Professional Championship, to be held at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., October 24-29.

Dan Sutton (Heather Downs C.C.), Steve Mulcahy (Shawnee C.C.), Gary Rusnak (1899 Golf, CLE East) and Steve Stone (McDivots Driving Range) will serve as alternates as the four through eight finishers.

It was a strong finish that propelled Stone to his first Senior Professional Championship win.A closing four-hole birdie/eagle binge led to the tournament’s lowest round of 68 and the lowest 9-hole score of 4-under 32. He closed with five consecutive 3’s and had six over his final nine holes. Starting on the 14th hole, he went birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie-par.

Stone, 51, played his final five holes in 5-under with three birdies, an eagle and a closing par. He had nine birdies, one eagle, five bogeys and 21 pars over the two days. The highlight on Friday was the eagle on the 458-yard 16th when his second shot from about 225 yards stopped eight feet from the hole and he made the putt.

“At that point I knew I had a two-shot cushion so all I wanted to do with that putt was get it close,” he explained. “The greens were so fast and firm I had to be careful not to run it by the hole. I just wanted to lag it close and it kind of filled in. When things like that happen you get the feeling it was going to be your day.”

Unquestionably, the eagle on the 16th was crucial but a birdie on the par-4 14th, shortened to about 275 yards, got things going Stone’s way. He also pointed to par-saves on the par-3 11th and the 12th, the second-longest hole on the course at 555 yards. His 3-wood off the 14th tee settled about 15 feet from the hole leading to a two-putt birdie. He closed by making a 15-footer on the 326-yard 17th and a routine par on the 187- yard 18th.

Stone will be making the trip to Florida and the national Professional Championship next month for the second time in two years. This time, however, he is going as a champion.

Tim is a Contributing Writer for the Northern Ohio PGA. Award-winning golf writer and sports reporter for the Plain Dealer, now retired. Contributor to the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, AP, other national publications.