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Michael Allen Senior PGA Championship
After winning the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury, Michael Allen gave some love to the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy. (Photo: The PGA of America)

Allen justifies special invite with Senior PGA Championship win

After receiving a special invite from The PGA of America, Michael Allen ended a 20-year victory drought in dramatic fashion Sunday, making a clutch birdie on Canterbury's brutal 18th hole to win the 70th Senior PGA Championship and join Arnold Palmer as the only men in history to win the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy in their Champions Tour debut.

By Craig Dolch, Special to PGA.com

BEACHWOOD, Ohio -- The names on the Alfred S. Bourne Trophy read like a Who's Who of golf: Jack Nicklaus. Arnold Palmer. Gary Player. Lee Trevino. Sam Snead. Raymond Floyd. Gene Sarazen. Julius Boros. Hale Irwin.

And now, Michael Allen.

Allen added his name to this illustrious list Sunday, thanks to a rock-solid 3-under 67 that carried him to a two-shot victory over Larry Mize in the 70th Senior PGA Championship at Canterbury Golf Club.

"It's certainly an incredible honor," Allen said while touching the trophy. "I've always held all these guys in such honor my whole career as a young guy growing up and I'm really kind of shy to even go talk to them. To be on that trophy is a phenomenal thing. It makes it worthwhile."

It's heady company for someone who hasn't won in 334 starts on the PGA Tour and was so discouraged with his game in the mid-1990s, he quit playing professionally to become an assistant club professional at Winged Foot and also dabble in the home construction business.

The unheralded Allen played like a champion Sunday. The Arizona resident started the day with a one-shot lead and he ended it there even though at one point he trailed Mize by two shots.

This win didn't come easy. Allen strode to the demanding 18th hole at Canterbury with just a one-shot lead, but pulled out his driver and striped a 314-yard bullet into the middle of the fairway. That left him with only a sand wedge, and he hit that to 10 feet, making the putt.

"I think my caddie wanted me to hit a 3-wood, but I just told him, 'I got this,'" Allen said. "I knew I wanted to hit a driver, and I hit it perfect."

Allen needed a special invitation from the PGA of America to get into the Senior PGA because he had no status on the Champions Tour -- he's still fully exempt on the PGA Tour. Allen showed the invite deserving as his winning score of 6-under 274 was one of only three under par.

Allen becomes the 14th player to win his Champions Tour debut as well as the 23rd player to win the Senior PGA Championship on his first attempt. The latter has happened three of the last five years (Mike Reid in 2005 and Denis Watson in 2007). He also joined Palmer as the only player to win the Senior PGA in their Champions Tour debut.

"And I thought the only thing Arnold and I had in common was we love wine," Allen said, smiling.

The players Allen had to beat Sunday also were of high caliber. Mize (67) is a former Masters champion, followed by former Champions Tour Player of the Year Bruce Fleisher (67-277) and eight-time major winner Tom Watson, who had the low round of a day, a six-birdie, two-bogey 66 that earned him a fourth-place finish.

"I'm very pleased with the way I played all week," Mize said. "I just caught the wrong guy on the wrong week. I can't compliment Michael Allen enough to come out here with the lead and shoot a 67. To do that and to play the 18th hole the way he did is very impressive."

Mize started the final round two shots behind Allen, but that wasn't the worst position, considering six of the last seven Senior PGA champions had come from behind on Sunday. Mize wasted little time making his move, opening with birdies on the first two holes to catch Allen at 3 under.

Allen opened with eight consecutive pars. That strategy usually works for a final-round leader in a major championship, but not the way Mize was firing at pins. When Mize birdied the seventh and eighth holes, Allen was two shots back even though he hadn't made a mistake.

Allen finally made a key birdie at the ninth hole to move within a shot of Mize. "That got me going," Allen said.

More importantly, he was headed to the back nine, where Allen was an impressive 7 under for the week. When Mize bogeyed the 12th after a bad drive, and Allen followed with a short birdie putt, Allen had regained the lead at 5 under.

But after making a birdie at No. 14 each of the first three days, Allen bogeyed the hole when his approach bounced over the green and he missed an 8-foot par putt. He regained the lead with a birdie at the 15th, then made two crucial pars before finishing the championship off with his birdie.

The victory in the world's oldest senior major made the hard work of he last 30 years. He holds the record for the most times to successfully make it through the PGA Tour's Q-School (seven).

"I always thought I was good enough to win," he said. "It has been a struggle, but it's a struggle I enjoy every day."

"This means a lot more to Michael then he's able to convey to you," said Allen's wife, Cynthia. "He had been staring at that wall for a long time."

Most assumed the winner, if it came out of the final group, would be either former major champions Tom Kite or Jeff Sluman. But Sluman (73) bogeyed the first two holes, and Kite (75) had two bogeys in his first four holes, effectively taking both out of contention.

Allen, who is No. 228 in the latest world rankings, insisted all week that even if he won the Senior PGA, he would return to the PGA Tour instead of concentrating on the Champions Tour. He didn't change his mind afterward.      

"I'm going to be the first guy ever to win his first senior tournament before he wins a PGA Tour event," Allen said with a grin. "It sounds good, anyway."

So does "Michael Allen ... Senior PGA champion."
 

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