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Rick Stimmel, Pittsburgh, PA



WINTER GARDEN, Fla. –  The first Society of Seniors event of 2024 is in the books as the 16th Spring Classic wrapped up on Thursday at Orange County National.  84 players began the event that was played on both the Panther Lake Course (two rounds) and Crooked Cat Course.

Senior Division

Rick Stimmel, of Pittsburgh, PA, had a season to remember in 2023, one in which he notched eleven victories across various organizations.  If this week’s results are any indication, it seems 2024 could be a repeat performance.  Stimmel fired a final round of 5-under par 67 that included four birdies and an eagle.  With a closing birdie at 18, Stimmel nudged past Greg Sanders, of Anthem, AZ, by one stroke to win the Senior division at the 16th Spring Classic held at Orange County National in Winter Garden, FL.  Sanders played stellar, carding a bogey-free 3-under round of 69 to finish as runner-up at 5-under par.  Stimmel tallied rounds of 70-73-67 for a 6-under total of 210.

“I got off to a hot start with birdies on No. 2 (par 5) and No. 4 (par 3),” said Stimmel.  “Then I eagled the par 5 No. 7 with a long putt from the back of the green.  Greg played great all day.  We had a great battle on the back nine.  I three-putted on No. 13 from about 15-feet, but then bounced back with a ridiculous up-and-down for birdie on the par 5 No. 14.  It could have gone either way on 14 and 18 with us.  I was able to get up-and-down from a little long on No. 18 for the winning birdie.”

Craig Hurlbert, of The Woodlands, TX, kept the pressure on both Stimmel and Sanders as he posted his final total of 4-under, 212, to finish alone in third place.


Super Senior Division

Richard Kerper, Oldsmar, FL

Richard Kerper, of Oldsmar, FL, exercised some demons that had been lingering after his first round on Panther Lake in Tuesday’s opening round, when he posted a 5-over score of 77.  On Thursday, he improved by six strokes after making six birdies and was able to overcome a double bogey on his final hole to edge Gregory Goode, of Salina, KS, by one to take home the hardware.  Kerper finished the three-day event with rounds of 77-72-71 for a 4-over total of 220.

“I had been hitting the ball great all week, even though I had 77 in the first round with a triple,” said Kerper.  “My putter really heated up today and I hit the ball real close most of the day.  On the last hole, as I was not doing well and making double, Greg had about a 12-footer to tie and hit a great putt and I thought he made it.  I’m real proud of the way I played and happy to come away with the win.”

Marcus Beck, of Tallahassee, FL, and Todd Brown, of Winston Salem, NC, tied for third place at 6-over par.


Legend Division

Don Donatoni, West Chester, PA

Don Donatoni, of West Chester, PA, continued his success from late in 2023, as he found a way to grind out the victory in the Legend division to win by two strokes over Peter Van Ingen, of Palm Beach, FL.  Donatoni opened the tournament with a 3-under round of 69, but then went without a birdie over his next 36 holes.  Van Ingen applied plenty of pressure as he carded a final round of 2-under par to finish runner-up at +3 overall.

“I was happy to get off to a great start in round one,” said Donatoni.  “I went the next 36 holes without a bogey, so I really had to grind.  My irons were a little suspect this week, but thankfully my scrambling was on point, and I was able to stick it out for the win.  I made 17 pars today, so I felt a little bit like Nick Faldo at The Open out there.  Peter and Evan kept it tight throughout the day, so I’m happy I was able to grind it out.”


Grand Master Division

Johnny Blank, Frostburg, MD

Johnny Blank, of Frostburg, MD, kept to his gameplan of fairways and greens on his way to another victory in the Grand Master division in taking the Spring Classic at Orange County National.  Blank compiled a three-day total of +3 147 to win by three strokes over runner-up’s Frank Polizzi, of Plymouth Meeting, PA, and Robert Kulp, of Savannah, GA.  Polizzi fired the low round of the division with a sparkling 4-under par 68.  Kulp also played a fine final round of even par 72.

“I just try to stick to my formula, hit fairways, hit greens, and make pars,” said Blank.  “I played well on Tuesday and then struggled a bit on Wednesday, but that’s golf.  I was able to play pretty solid today and I’m happy to come away with the win.  It’s a great facility here at Orange County National with two great golf courses.  I always enjoy coming here and look forward to the next time.”

Special thanks to Orange County National Golf Center and Lodge for hosting the event, and to Callaway Golf for their sponsorship of the Society of Seniors.