Mielke wins LIPGA at home course

Mark Mielke hits an approach shot. He would

Mark Mielke hits an approach shot. He would go on to win the Long Island PGA Championship. (May 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Bob Mitchell

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Mark Mielke naturally had local knowledge of the course, having been head pro there for 15 years. He also had local knowledge of his opponent, having been Rick Hartmann's partner when the two nearly won $3 million in a Las Vegas match six years ago.

Still, this wasn't easy.

Mielke had to make a 12-foot putt on the Mill River Club's 18th hole just to keep the match going, then made birdie on the first extra hole to win the Long Island PGA Championship. First prize was $4,000, which seemed like millions to Mielke and his members.

"It had to be fun, watching that," Mielke said in the grill room, where many of his several dozen spectators had followed him and the silver trophy. "It was extra special. Having everybody out there was nice, especially for them getting to see me win."

The Long Island PGA had been one of the few events that had eluded Mielke in his accomplished career. He really wanted to win it this time, on his home course. "A lot of it was local knowledge. I know the greens inside and out. I know where you can't miss it and where you can," he said.

But there also was pressure. "It was weird. I had to worry about getting balls for everybody on the range, I had to talk to my range guy, to my cart guy," he said. "Normally, when you show up at an event you don't have to do any of that so it was definitely different."

There were big cheers at the pivotal point, the 13th green. Mielke was down one and in trouble: facing a sharply breaking 24-foot downhill putt for birdie while Hartmann was four feet away from his own birdie. Mielke made his, Hartmann missed and the match was even.

All afternoon, the match also was both intense and friendly. The golfers never halved a hole between 11 and 17, so momentum ebbed and flowed. Hartmann, head pro at Atlantic Golf Club and a four-time LIPGA winner, is good at going with the flow. "He's fun to play with. He's always talking, always joking," Mielke said.

After Hartmann birdied 17 to draw even, he said to Mielke's wife, "He's not talking to me now, Leigh," (Leigh hugged him). Walking off 18, Hartmann deadpanned to a few Mill River members, "How lucky did he get? Let's be serious."

Seriously, he did say in an interview later, "He made a huge putt on 18, that was massive."

Mielke said: "Out here, everything breaks. That was the first time all day I had a putt that didn't break."

The members graciously and spontaneously applauded Hartmann as he left the grill room. That was not before Hartmann gave one more needle: "The last time he had a putt like that, it was for $3 million, and he was short."

Mielke, relieved and happy, thought back six years and said, "That one was a little bit farther."

Judging from the reaction at Mill River, this one went plenty far, too.

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