FARMINGTON HILLS – Steve Maddalena of Jackson plays smarter, understands his limitations, practices as much as his body will allow and continues to learn by watching others.
“I try to give myself every advantage and every opportunity to win when I go play somewhere,” he said. “I want to be competitive as long as I can. I don’t see the point in playing if I’m going out there and getting my brains beat out. As long as I compete and there is a remote chance I can win once in a while I’d like to keep playing. I enjoy competitive golf and don’t particularly get much of a thrill out of recreational golf.”
Maddalena, 62, topped the Golf Association of Michigan (GAM) Points List for senior men and has been named the GAM Senior Men’s Player of the Year for the third time in the last four years, Ken Hartmann senior director of competitions and USGA services for the GAM, announced today.
Player of the Year point totals can be found on a pull down from the PLAY tab at GAM.org. Last week Nick Krueger of Spring Lake was named the Men’s Player of the Year and Kimberly Dinh of Midland was named the Women’s Player of the Year. Over the next few weeks the GAM will announce more Players of the Year in gender and age categories. The Players of the Year are presented by Carl’s Golfland.
Maddalena, a Country Club of Jackson member, won the GAM Senior Match Play Championship early in the season to score key points. He also played in five other GAM tournaments, won the Senior Division at the GAM Mid-Amateur Championship and topped the points list with 418 points.
Mitch Wilson of Portage and the Moors Golf Club was second with 300 points, and Mike Zoerhoff of Caledonia and StoneWater Country Club was third with 265.
John Barbour of Grand Rapids and Cascade Hills Country Club (250) and Randy Lewis of Alma and Pine River Country Club (213) rounded out the top five.
“I didn’t expect to be (Senior Player of the Year) this year after I didn’t qualify for the (U.S. Senior Amateur),” Maddalena said. “Those are big points and that was a big disappointment. I think I put too much pressure on myself to play well that one day (in the qualifier). It’s one of my faults from over the years. Instead of trying to enjoy the moment, I make it more important that it really is.”
He called the Senior Match Play win at Muskegon Country Club the highlight of the summer. He tied Tom Gieselman of Commerce Township at No. 17 with a 25-foot birdie putt and then won it at No. 18 with a 50-foot shot using his putter from the fringe of the green.
“That was a nice win,” he said. “I surprised myself. Before that match I gave myself a one in five chance of winning. Tom is so good, he was playing so well and he just bombs it past me. I was fortunate to putt really well that day though, made a lot at the end of the match, and I think it helped that we were playing that course because it’s tight and it has a great set of greens. That fits my game.”
The three-time Michigan Amateur champion and Michigan Golf Hall of Fame member has played significantly on the national senior level in recent years and said he continues to learn.
“I’ve played a couple of times with Paul Simson of North Carolina (two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion), one the greatest senior players and watched how he manages his game and works around the golf course,” he said. “I learn a lot from guys like him. They manage the game differently than what I was doing, and I’ve made changes just in the way I might play certain holes and it has helped my scoring immensely. I’m a little smarter.”
The practice regimen he has always followed has been tweaked, especially because some health issues and age have forced him to cut back on the amount of time he practices.
“Practice is kind of therapeutic for me,” he said. “I enjoy it. I wish I could practice more.”
Hartmann said it was clear Maddalena still has a passion for practice and competition.
“He has a great short game and he still makes the big putts when he needs them, like at the (GAM) Match Play,” he said. “He is one player you can’t count out, and if he isn’t in the top five or 10 in a tournament it is a rarity. Since he became a senior he has been really consistent and hard to beat, and you can tell he still works on his game because he can compete at the USGA level, too.”