Tiziani Stages Another Miracle Comeback, Wins Wisconsin Sr. Open
September 14, 2021
MADISON, Wis. -- It wasn't just that Mario Tiziani completed a Minnesota/Wisconsin Senior Double last week by winning the Wisconsin State Senior Open, but the way he did it -- again.
In early June, he shot a final-round, 6-under-par 66 at Keller Golf Course and came from four strokes behind on the back nine to win the Minnesota State Senior Open by four with a 36-hole total of 137.
Last Wednesday, Tiziani, playing two groups ahead of first-round leader Kurt Mantyla, was 10 behind as he started the back nine at Blackhawk Country Club. But he birdied six of the next seven holes on the way to a 4-under 68, and Mantyla suffered a late-round round collapse, going 5 over on the last three holes. The result was a tie between them at 141 for 36 holes.
So there was a playoff. Mantyla recovered from the disastrous finish to his round, and birdied the first extra hole (No. 13, 517 yards, par 5), but so did Tiziani. They both parred the next three holes, and when they played No. 13 again, Tiziani made another birdie -- his third of the day on that hole -- and that gave the 51-year-old former University of Wisconsin star the title.
As a result, he became the ninth player to win both the Wisconsin State Open and the Wisconsin Senior Open. He won the State Open in 2002. One of the other eight to win both Wisconsin Opens was Tiziani's uncle, Larry Tiziani, who played at the University of Minnesota in the late '60s. Larry won the Wisconsin State Open in 1978 and the Senior Open in '99.
For purposes of comparison, Tiziani's comeback was even bigger than the legendary comeback by Billy Casper in the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. Casper was seven behind Arnold Palmer with nine holes remaining. Like Tiziani last week, Casper won in a playoff.
Michael Crowley, who won the Senior Open last year, closed with a 72 this year at Blackhawk for a 142, and finished third. Jason Summer, an amateur, shot 73 and claimed sole possession of fourth with a 143. JT Johnson, who won his fourth Minnesota Senior Publinx championship in July, followed a first-round 73 with a 71, which put him in a tie for fifth at 144, along with former three-time Wisconsin Senior Open champ Jim Schuman. Schuman, too, is another member of that Group of Nine that have won the State Open (1996, '99) and Senior Open (2015, '18, '19).
It was another player's misfortunes on the back nine that helped Tiziani make his comeback at Keller in the Minnesota Senior Open. Russ Simenson, the first-round leader, was cruising along in the second round, having shot a 2-under 33 on the front nine. But then, while Tiziani was making four birdies and no bogeys on the incoming nine, Simenson was making five bogeys and no birdies. The resulting 42 relegated him to a tie for third at 142 (67-75). Joel B. Johnson, an amateur, birdied three of the last seven holes for a 71, and he tied Derek Stendahl for second at 141.
Last week, Mantyla, a teaching pro from Wauwatosa, opened with a 68 at Blackhawk, and he backed it up with four birdies in his first eight holes during the second round. He bogeyed the ninth, at about the same time that Tiziani was starting on his birdie binge. That bogey by Mantyla didn't really seem to matter at the time, and he got the lost stroke back with a birdie at the par-5 13th.
Tiziani, who had one full year on the PGA Tour (2005), regained his amateur status in 2011 but didn't play any tournament golf for the rest of the decade. It wasn't until he turned 50 and became a senior in July of last year that he got interested in competition once again. So he turned pro for a second time.
He wasn't doing all that much in his second round last Wednesday -- two bogeys and one birdie on the front nine. But he took advantage of the short (274-yard) par-4 11th hole and started his birdie spree there. He proceeded to birdie the two consecutive par-5's on the back nine, the 522-yard 12th and the 13th. The 14th and 15th are also short par 4's (265 and 273 yards), and Tiziani birdied them both -- for five in a row.
After making a par at the par-3 16th, he made one more birdie at the 406-yard, par-4 17th.
The 18th at Blackhawk is a 131-yard par 3, but the green is treacherous. Any shot hit past the pin is likely to lead to a three-putt, which is what happened to Tiziani.
Mantyla, who had been solid for 33 holes, three-putted each of the last three holes in regulation. At the 17th, he had mud on his ball, and that probably contributed to the errant 7-iron shot that he hit out of bounds. The three-putt there meant a triple-bogey 7.
At the 18th, he hit a pitching wedge, which looked great in the air -- but it flew past the pin. He was left with a downhill putt, and he, like Tiziani, three-putted.
After each player made his second birdie of the day at the 13th to start the playoff, they matched pars at the 16th, 17th and 18th holes. When they played the 13th again, Mantyla hit his third shot into a bunker. He blasted to 7 feet, and would have needed that for a par, but Tiziani made his birdie putt from 8 feet, and that was that.
Wisconsin State Senior Open
At Blackhawk Country Club
Par 72, 6,089 yards
1. Mario Tiziani, Shorewood, Minn. 73-68--141* (won five-hole playoff with birdie on fifth extra hole)
2. Kurt Mantyla, Wauwatosa, Wis. 68-73--141
3. Michael Crowley, Fox Point, Wis. 70-72--142
4. Jason Summers (A), Richfield, Wis. 70-73--143
T5. JT Johnson (A), Eden Prairie, Minn. 73-71--144
T5. Jim Schuman, Scottsdale, Ariz. 72-72--144