Kirk Hanefeld of Acton, Mass., ran the gauntlet of emotions in the span of an hour on Creighton Farms' final four holes, before executing the shot he needed for a closing birdie Sunday, holding off Ken Martin of Wellington, Fla., to win the 23rd Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
"It wasn't pretty," said Hanefeld, who earned his second national title with a closing 3-over-par 75, the highest closing round by a Champion in the showcase event for senior PGA Professionals.
The 55-year-old PGA Life member, who had not surrendered the lead all week until the 69th hole, salvaged his round after posting bogeys on four of his five final holes.
"I really don't feel like I won a golf tournament, but golf is a wacky game," said Hanefeld, who added his title to his 2008 crown while finishing with a 72-hole total of 6-under-par 282. Martin, who briefly held a two-stroke margin before bogeys on his closing two holes, finished with a 74 and 283. The twosome ended as the only players in the 264-player field to finish under par.
Hanefeld's erratic round included a birdie at the fifth hole, then bogeys at 8, 12, 13, 15 and 16. He regrouped in time to hit a 96-yard wedge approach at 18, which landed beyond the flagstick and spun back to within 18 inches of the cup. Martin's tee shot at 18 nestled into an awkward position in the left-hand fairway bunker. He blasted out, then hit a hybrid from a poor lie in the rough, before sailing a wedge approach over the green. He chipped back to four feet, made his bogey putt and watched as Hanefeld stroked home his winning birdie putt.
"Making birdie on the last hole was great, but there wasn't too many highlights for me today," said Hanefeld, who pocketed a first-place prize of $20,000 from a total purse of $285,000. "But to win is obviously very satisfying. Kenny played really, really well up until the last few holes and I gave a lot back to him." Hanefeld came to the final round owning a two-stroke lead, and had opened the week with a Championship-record 36 holes of 11 under par.
Martin, 52, the PGA teaching professional at Village Golf Club in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., claimed that he did not check his position in the Championship until he shook hands with Hanefeld on the 72nd green. Martin finished fourth last year.
"I actually had no idea where we stood, and I wanted to keep it that way," said Martin, whose round featured birdies at 2, 9 and 15, offsetting a double bogey at 6. "I hit a great shot on 15, and knew that Kirk was making bogey. To be honest, I wasn't thinking about anything but the next shot. There was a lot of waiting between shots and was trying to find my rhythm. I was stuck in the bunker at 18, then had a horrible lie, hit the wedge shot thin and made a heck of a bogey. Then, I found out at the end that he won by a shot!"
Darrell Kestner of Glen Cove, N.Y., who had five previous top-10 finishes and was runner-up in 2005, turned in the day's low round of 68. He shared third at even-par 288 with Craig Stevens of Dallas, Ga., who finished with a 75.
Fred Holton of Montgomery, Ala., who had a 73 and Tim White of Midlothian, Va., who came in with a 77, shared fifth at 289.
"Even when I played well early this week, I just didn't feel good with my swing,' said Hanefeld. "Even on the last nine holes, when I needed to make some good swings, I couldn't do it. I was very fortunate. He gave it to me at the end, and I gave it to him during the day."
Hanefeld said that a national championship was satisfying, despite his losing his form.
"It's a great tournament, and The PGA of America ran a great event," said Hanefeld. "It's a terrific golf course. I played solid on the front, and then on the back nine I made some loose swings and bad bogeys. Fortunately, the birdie at the end made up for it."
The Championship was composed of senior PGA Professionals representing the 41 PGA Sections and 42 states.
Southworth Development, with headquarters in Newton, Mass., was in its first year of title sponsorship. Mercedes-Benz is a presenting sponsor.
Begun in 1989, the Senior PGA Professional National Championship is modeled after the PGA Professional National Championship, with a field of 50-and-older senior PGA Professionals who advanced through 41 Section Championships conducted from July through September this year.
The top 35 finishers in the National Championship earned a berth in the 73rd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid, which will be conducted May 24-27, 2012, at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich.
The top eight finishers, including ties, received exemptions into the 2012 Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship.
The top five finishers earned an exemption into the final stage of the 2011 Champions Tour National Finals.