Entering the final round of the Dixie Senior Amateur championship at the Eagle Trace Golf Club five shots back, Joe Shaktman said he felt no pressure.
Shaktman, 65, a member at nearby Country Club of Coral Springs, rallied from a five-shot, final round deficit to win his first Dixie Senior Amateur championship. Highland Beach’s Brian Kennedy, the second-round leader, wound up carding a final-round 79 to finish tied for fourth, three shots back. He shot 70-71 his first two days.
“Brian, who was leading – we have played in quite a few tournaments and he’s never beaten me in a tournament over the years,” Shaktman said. “I probably thought in my heart that I could probably catch him with a good round. I played a decent round.
“Anytime you shoot under par, it’s a good score. Lucky for me he didn’t play his best game, and lucky for me I was able to run him down.”
Shaktman, a Coral Springs resident, carded a 74-72-71 to finish at 1-over 217, which was good for a two-shot victory.
“It was really big to win it because it is a national tournament,” said Shaktman, who plays or practices at least five days a week. He finished sixth in the Dixie in 2018 and third in 2019 in the Senior Division. The tournament was canceled last year due to COVID. “Any time you win a tournament, it’s big. It’s difficult to win.”
Jerry Slagle (Southlake, Texas) and two-time Dixie Senior Amateur champion Michael Hughett (Owasso, Okla.) finished T2.
“I thought I could win, seeing as though I hit the ball farther than most of my peers,” he explained. “I feel at my age, I am healthy, in good shape and mentally sound. I feel that I should be able to win and compete at a top-level. It’s exciting to know you are playing against people from all over. It is a lot different than playing against people locally.”
Shaktman trailed Kennedy, who bogeyed Nos. 4, 5, 8 and 9, and made his move with birdies on Nos. 7, 8 and 10 to go to 2-under on the day. He finished 1-under.
“You could sense the momentum changing because you are playing with them,” Shaktman said. “He made a couple of bogeys and I made three birdies in four holes. It was exciting because I felt the momentum switch and I was confident. When you are confident, and playing (well) and committed, it is a lot easier.”
“I feel at my age, I am healthy, in good shape and mentally sound. I feel that I should be able to win and compete at a top-level.”Joe Shaktman
Golf wasn’t always Shaktman’s first love. The Miami Beach native was a left-handed pitcher at Miami-Dade Community College before he hurt his throwing arm.
“I pursued golf a little further,” said Shaktman, who had started playing at age 9. “I always had the time to play golf. When I worked, I had businesses that gave me time to play and practice.”
While in college, Shaktman said he won the North-South, the Cape Coral Junior College Invitational and the Dade Amateur in 1976. He transferred from Miami Dade Community College to Florida State University.
Shaktman finished his collegiate career at FSU from 1978-80 and missed qualifying for the PGA Tour by three shots in the final round of Q-School. He played various mini-tour events as well as the senior tour, but regained his amateur status at 62.
He started playing some FSGA events and was successful. He won some tournaments and then began entering national tournaments.
“My first time out, I qualified for the US Senior Open, which was a major,” he said. “I was the low qualifier for the USGA Senior Amateur. I shot 77-74 and did not make it to the match play.”
Shaktman followed the Dixie performance up with a runner-up finish in the Plantation Senior Invitational in Venice.
Admittedly, he’s not happy he got injured and wound up with a golf career.
“No,” he laughed. “I probably would have been in the major leagues as a left-handed pitcher. I could throw the ball really hard but didn’t have great control. I could strike out 12 and probably hit four batters and walk six.”
Men’s division: Evan Myers, a sophomore at Texas A&M, shot a 6-under 66 in his final round to earn a two-stroke victory over Christian Castillo and Quentin Debove.
Women: Latanna Stone, a junior at LSU, shot a 4-under 71 in her final round to earn a four-stroke victory over Reagan Zibilski.
Mid-Master: Marc Engellenner carded three rounds at or below par to win by four strokes ahead of Jon Lindstrom and Shaw Pritchett.
Super Senior: Stephen Fox closed with a birdie and five pars en route to a two-stroke win over Steve Humphrey.