Lewis, 54, becomes oldest player to win US Mid-Amateur Championship

Associated Press

Series: Other Tour

Published: Friday, September 23, 2011 | 1:11 a.m.

Not long after 54-year-old Randal Lewis became the oldest U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, his youngest son sent him a quick text message.

"Hey dad, can I have your Masters tickets?" the text from Nicklaus Lewis read.

Lewis, a financial planner from Alma, Mich., defeated Kenny Cook 3 and 2 on Thursday to gain his first USGA national championship, along with the automatic invitation to play at Augusta National in 2012.

"To win at this age is really unbelievable," he said. "It's always inspirational to see older guys do well."

Lewis is the oldest champion by five years in the 31-year history of the Mid-Amateur Championship, reserved for amateurs 25 and older. He is 23 years older than the average age of the past Mid-Am champions. Cook, an accountant for the Department of Defense in Noblesville, Ind., is 31.

"You look at his resume, that guy can play at any age," Cook said. "He never showed fatigue. It was like if you want to get this, you're going to have to keep up with me."

Lewis won the first two holes and never trailed in the 36-hole final, despite getting routinely outdriven by his younger opponent. Cook had birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 in the morning to square the match, but Lewis made a birdie on 16 and a par on 18 for a two-hole lead at the midway point and never looked back.

During the match-play event, Lewis knocked off Nathan Smith, the second-seeded player and the two-time defending champion.

"This is my peak performance this week," Lewis said. "You saw it."

The improbable win makes up for his loss in the 1996 U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he fell 3 and 2 to John "Spider" Miller. After playing one year of college golf, then graduating from Central Michigan, Lewis turned pro for exactly four weeks, acting as his own sponsor, before regaining his amateur status.

Now he can start making plans to tee it up in next year's Masters and handling all the tickets request from his friends and family.

He didn't even have to change his airline reservations to spend Thursday night celebrating with his wife, having booked his return flight for Friday before the tournament even started.

"I think it's a little bit of destiny," he said. "I got some breaks this week and had things go my way, it was just meant to be."