ROYAL OAK – John Barbour of Grand Rapids stayed patient through rain, lightning and an overnight delay, even after losing the lead and through three holes of a three-golfer sudden-death playoff at Red Run Golf Club Wednesday morning.
And finally, with an eight-foot par-saving putt on the third playoff hole, the 64-year-old president emeritus of the Golf Association of Michigan was the winner of the 36th GAM Senior Championship presented by Garland Lodge & Golf Resort.
“This is validation for me especially playing with all these other champions in this great field,” said the longtime Cascade Hills Country Club member who counts nine club championship and 10 senior club championships at home.
“It’s absolutely my biggest win. This is a state-wide and there are a bunch of great names on that trophy and I’m very, very pleased to join them.”
Barbour shot a closing 2-over 74, finishing the last two holes of regulation play Wednesday morning with bogeys for 146.
That left him tied and headed for the playoff with David Martin of Saline, who finished one hole Wednesday morning and made a 30-foot birdie putt on 18 to shoot 74, and Tom Senkowski of Rochester Hills, who had finished a 72 on Tuesday night.
Mike Ignasiak of Saline, who shot 75 to close, and first-round leader Kevin VandenBerg, who shot 79, missed out on the playoff by one shot.
Barbour, who has served as a volunteer for the GAM for 25 years in various capacities including leadership, said he almost felt a duty to try and win one for all the GAM rules officials and volunteers.
“I’ve officiated a ton of these tournaments, I’m a past president and it felt really great to go out and represent wearing the GAM hat and winning this great championship,” he said.
Barbour was relieved in the end. He and Martin traded pars on the first playoff hole and Senkowski made bogey. Then the twosome traded pars on the second playoff hole, too. On the third hole both of them missed the green and hit putts from off the green well past the hole. Martin missed from 10 feet and Barbour made his key eight-footer.
“Having to spend the extra night waiting to finish was different, but you just have to be patient in going through your process,” Barbour said. “Get here in the morning, warm up and just be patient. Bogeys are out there because this is a challenging golf course, but I was fortunate to make a par at the right time.”
Barbour noted he is one year shy of being a Super Senior (65) and he maintains his game by trying to stay healthy.
“I try to stay fit and just take it one day, one week at a time,” he said. “So hopefully we are playing a good slate of Super Senior tournaments next summer.”
As for the Super Senior Division in this championship, David Schultz of St. Joseph won the title. Those players in the field of 156 golfers finished on Tuesday.
Schultz shot a final 73 for a 1-over 145 total, slipping past Ed Borio of Beverly Hills, who shot 72 for 146.
Fritz Reifert of Ypsilanti, who shot 74 for 147, Garry Ogilvie of Lake Orion, who shot 72 for 149 and Dan Longeway of Brighton, who shot 77 for 150 rounded out the top five.
Schultz, who will be 66 next month is a reinstated amateur who three years ago fell off a ladder and shattered his heel.
“I created a lot of bad habits when I started to try and play again and I’m still working my way through getting rid of that,” he said. “I’m making progress. I feel great about winning. I haven’t won anything like this in a long time. This is a big field and a very good field.”
He started the back nine with consecutive bogeys, but birdies at Nos. 13 and 16 kept him in the hunt.
“I was going to look (at the leaderboard) after I made the two bogeys, but I resisted,” he said. “I just tried to finish with good shots. I really had no idea if I had a chance to win.”