Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Tiele's epic comeback results in dramatic win

Erik Tiele made his return to competitive golf by winning the Northeast New York PGA Section's Senior Professional Championship. Tiele is pictured here at his Waubeeka office holding up the winner's trophy.

Improbable, emotional, inspiring, dramatic and popular can all be used to describe Erik Tiele's victory in the Northeast New York PGA Section's Senior Professional Championship at The Edison Club in Rexford, N.Y., on Wednesday.

Tiele, performing coolly in the first true pressure situation he has faced in years after physical issues curtailed his ability to play, survived a steamy 44-hole day to win the tournament, and with it a berth in October's national Senior Professional Championship in Austin, Texas.

Improbable?

Over the past three years, Tiele has had an ankle reconstruction — the ankle was originally injured in a serious car accident in 1987 — and lost some 160 pounds with the help of Gastric Sleeve surgery so he could undergo a hip transplant, which he received in January.

"I've been getting stronger and I am playing a lot more golf, because I can," said Tiele, who proved his recovery is for real by handling 44 holes in the heat and coming out victorious. "I'm now the Bionic Man, but I hadn't played much competitive golf, so I didn't have thoughts of winning. I just wanted to go over, not embarrass myself and maybe shoot a couple of 75s and finish in the middle of the pack."

Emotional?

"My mother has been having health issues, so just before I went into the playoff, I said to myself that I was playing the rest of the way for her, I threw that into the fray," the 50-year-old Tiele said. "I'm very excited, this is the biggest thing I've ever done in golf."

Inspiring?

"Everybody is thrilled, after all Erik has gone through, it's by far the most popular win I've seen in a long, long time (in the NENY section)," said Wyantenuck Country Club head professional Tom Sullivan. "It's just wonderful."

Dramatic?

Tiele was in the day's first group and, after steady rounds of 73 and 75 on the first and third nines on the 27-hole Edison layout, had to wait more than two hours before even knowing he was in a four-way playoff for the championship with New York pros Rocky Catalano, Jim Jeffers and Peter Girard.

"I was just sitting around having a couple of beers when Doug Evans (NENY section director) said it looked like I might be in a playoff for an alternate spot," Tiele said. "There was no more beer after that. Then Girard bogeyed four of the last five holes and all of a sudden I am playing for the championship."

After Catalano was eliminated on the first playoff hole and Jeffers on the third with bogeys, Girard and Tiele knew they were headed to Austin with two berths in the national tournament at stake, but there was still the matter of winning the tournament. They matched pars on Nos. 4, 5 and 7 while settling for bogeys on No. 6 before Tiele clinched the victory with a tap-in par on the eighth playoff hole after Girard suffered a three-put bogey.

"In the playoff, I just tried to let those guys make the mistakes," Tiele said. "I played like I had over the first 36 holes. I was driving it great and keeping the ball in play."

Tiele's accuracy off the tee had been on display earlier this year when he teed it up in a section event at Stockbridge Golf Club with Sullivan.

"He drives it super and he drove it great that day at Stockbridge," Sullivan said. "It was just a matter of time before he would acclimate himself to his irons, especially since he always seems to be hitting from the middle of the fairway."

There are plenty of things that make Tiele's performance remarkable, but the fact he survived a marathon day like that?

"I was smoked by the end, the hip was pretty sore and in need of a lube job" Tiele joked. "That much golf in the heat and humidity? I could definitely feel it when I went to work (Thursday)."

Popular?

"I've been getting calls from a bunch of people, including former members at Worthington, as well as many of the pros in the section," said Tiele, who is in his third year of his second stint as the head pro at Waubeeka after spending the previous six years at the Links at Worthington. "Our members are ecstatic and have been constantly coming into the pro shop to congratulate me. This has been a really, really nice experience."

"We are so happy and fortunate to have Erik as our pro," said Deep. "Not one person I know has ever said a bad word about him. He's just a good guy and he deserves this."

And, did he ever earn it!

And now it's on to Austin.

***

Three members of Berkshire County courses — Waubeeka's Jamie Gaffey and Jeff Bourdon along with Skyline Country Club's Matt Gilardi — will be in the field when the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship begins on Tuesday at Bayberry Hills Golf Course in West Yarmouth.

Gaffey and Gilardi both earned their way into the field for the 36-hole tournament with rounds of 3-over 75 in a qualifier at The Ledges in South Hadley on June 25. Bourdon shot a 77 to miss qualifying by one shot, but fortunately he made it into the field as an alternate.

Gilardi will go off the 10th tee at Bayberry Hills at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday while Bourdon will start on No. 1 at 1:15 and Gaffey will strike his first drive off the 10th tee at 1:35 p.m.

The 36-hole state-level tournament, which was hosted by Waubeeka back in 2016, will conclude on Wednesday.

***

Just two tournaments remain in this year's Berkshire Country Junior Golf Series. Entries have closed for this Monday's event at Egremont Country Club but there is still time to enter the season finale on Aug. 12th at Waubeeka.

The Waubeeka tournament will also serve as the Allied Association Junior Championship. Golfers need to sign up at their Allied Association course by Friday to get into the field.

The Links at Worthington hosted the most recent tournament this past Monday with Owen Petropulos (13-and-under age division), Levi Zielinski (14-15 division) and Harrison Seeley (16-and-over division) earning victories.

LOCAL RESULTS

Berkshire County Junior Series

At Links at Worthington

Monday, July 29

13-and-under division

1. Owen Petropulos, 102

14-15 division

1. Levi Zielinski, 79. 2. Max Digrigoll, 84.

16-and-over division

1. Harrison Seeley 81.

Richard Lord can be reached at relord633@gmail.com or 413-281-2226.