When Mark Mielke visited Long Island recently, he was treated to hospitality that he earned in two decades as one of the area's most respected club pros. He left with a trophy, which he earned as the only one to finish under par at the Metropolitan Senior Open.
Mielke, 53, shot 2-under-par 140 in two days at Engineers Country Club, showing he still has a good feel for courses around here. After 18 years as head pro at Mill River Club in Oyster Bay, Mielke lives in Florida and is in his first season as a full-time competitor. He regularly plays in qualifiers for Champions Tour events and has made it into two of them. He made the cut at the U.S. Senior Open. He will enter the tour's Q School with the hope of being a full-time member.
"Those guys still shoot unbelievably low scores," he said.
Mielke played in five PGA Championships and four U.S. Opens during his club pro career. Now, he is getting accustomed to the travel and to playing in all kinds of conditions.
"I figure I had a narrow window, so now was the time to do it. My game before was OK, but it wasn't up to the level I needed to have it at. I'm putting in a lot of time on the range, a lot of time on the chipping green."
He still feels at home up here. During the Met Open at Winged Foot and the Met Senior, he stayed with Metropolis head pro Craig Thomas and The Greens head pro Shawn Baker, two of his former assistants. Mielke said, "I kind of called in all my favors."