Mike Barge of Hazeltine National shot a final round 5-under 67 to win the 2018 Minnesota Senior PGA Professional Championship by a shot over 18-hole leader Dale Jones of Mendakota C.C. This is Barge’s fourth Senior PGA Professional title and his first since 2010 at the impressive age of 63.
“This is the best I’ve played in five years, easily,” said Barge with a grin. “I haven’t hit the ball like that, even on the practice range, in quite some time. I think I know where it’s coming from because I’ve been working on a few adjustments. I was really pleased with my [1-under] 71 yesterday but today’s round I took it to another level.”
Barge and Jones along with Don Berry of Edinburgh USA G.C., Bill Israelson of Vintage G.C. and Thomas Vizina of Oaks G.C. have qualified for the 30th Senior PGA Professional Championship on October 25-28, 2018 at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Jones began the day with a one shot lead over Bill Israelson, but struggled to regain yesterday’s form early. Although he birdied his first hole, that birdie would be his lone birdie on the front. With bogeys at the 2nd and 4th, Jones made the turn 2-under total.
On the other hand, Barge used a bogey-free front nine and three birdies to take a two shot lead at the turn at 4-under for the tournament. As if it couldn’t get any better for Barge, he chipped in for eagle on the par-5 10th to move to 6-under.
After a bogey at the 11th for Jones, Barge had a five shot lead with eight holes to play. That lead would be heavily tested down the stretch. Jones would bounce back to make lengthy birdies at the par-4 12th and par-3 13th as well as a two-putt birdie at 14th for three consecutive birdies.
“I had the chip-in for eagle on the par-5 10th which was really special.” Barge said. “I felt comfortable once I had a five-shot lead and thought pars would be good enough until Dale [Jones] rattled off three birdies in a row.”
That coupled with a sloppy three-putt on the par-4 16th brought Barge’s lead down to only one with two holes remaining. By this point, the two were three shots clear of the field and it was evident this was a two person race. Both Barge and Jones parred 17 leaving the par-5 18th to determine the championship. They both found the fairway with attempts to get on in two.
“Dale is down there about 30 yards ahead with a 7-iron or 8-iron in his hands, so I knew I was going to need to make a four here to win,” Barge emphasized. “I felt like I had the right club. I wanted to make a good solid swing.”
Barge did just that by putting his approach shot to within 12-feet. Jones followed by getting his approach to 15-feet. Jones’ eagle try stopped a couple inches before the hole as he would tap in for birdie. Barge, needing a two-putt birdie to win, did that with ease on his way to his first Senior PGA Professional title in nine tries.
“It’s a thrill to win this, I haven’t won anything of this stature in a long, long time,” he added. “I’ve been really lucky with my health over the years.”