By Bob Denney
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – PGA Life Member Mark Mielke of Jupiter, Florida, capped his third visit to Harbor Shores Sunday by securing his second career Low Club Professional award in the 79th KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.
Mielke, 55, posted a 4-over par 75 and a 72-hole total of 4-over-par 288. He was the low scorer and the only player to compete through weekend among a 41-member PGA Professional contingent. He finished in 72nd place and earned $5,250. Later in the day, after 18th green photos with the KitchenAid Senior PGA Champion, Paul Broadhurst, Mielke was again honored.
At the Champion’s Toast, he was presented KitchenAid appliances to outfit his Florida home. It was a bonus in another respect —it was his wife Leigh’s birthday.
It was the second time Mielke earned the traditional crystal bowl at Low Club Professional, but the first time alone. In 2013, he shared honors at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis with Jeff Coston of Blaine, Washington.
“To get to be Low Club Pro, you have to play pretty good just to make the cut,” said Mielke, who spent most of his PGA career in the Metropolitan PGA Section before moving full-time to South Florida in 2014. “If you are playing well and control your golf ball on this course, you can get to the right spots on the greens. I’m fortunate to have been here before and to play with guys like Steve Pate in a practice round and then play with him the first two rounds.
“The first day I made seven birdies, which hid a lot of my mistakes. You have to be on the correct side of the hole to have a chance. Another big part is to be at ease; where you aren’t star-struck.”
It was Mielke’s fifth overall appearance in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, to add to a career that includes competing in five PGA Championships, four U.S. Opens and two U.S. Senior Opens. He’s also a veteran in national PGA Member championships, with 16 appearances in the PGA Professional Championship and five Senior PGA Professional Championships. He will decide next week if he’s adding another major visit to his ledger – at the Senior British Open, July 26-29, at the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland.
“I’m first trying to qualify for the U.S. Senior Open in a couple weeks,” said Mielke. “I have a love-hate relationship over there. I haven’t had a lot of success over there on links courses, but it would be hard to pass up a chance to be playing on the Old Course. It would be great to play in three senior majors in one year. We’ll see.”
This week, Mielke found an unexpected MVP carrying his bag. PGA Professional Steve Delaney of Lake Worth, Florida, who had struck up a friendship in South Florida PGA events with Mielke, agreed to serve as caddie.
It was Delaney’s first-ever caddie job in competition.
“On Tuesday I wasn’t playing very well and hitting a lot of crazy shots, said Mielke. “Steve mentioned a couple things and I worked on them Tuesday and Wednesday. It helped a ton.”
Mielke opened his week with a 68, added a 71 and then finished with weekend rounds of 74 and 75. “I am glad that more of our club pros were not chasing me. It was tough,” said Mielke.
Delaney, a former PGA Assistant Professional at the Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton, Florida, is a native of Williamston, Michigan.
“I ran into Mark at our Section events and enjoyed playing together,” said Delaney. “When Mark asked if I wanted to do that this week, I didn’t hesitate.”
However, there was the job of carrying a professional’s bag for 72 holes over the demanding Jack Nicklaus Signature on Lake Michigan.
“I have about only nine more holes left in me,” said Delaney. “I made it and I’m done.”
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