By Michael Kinney
TULSA – When Saturday started Alex Cejkak was on the leaderboard, but not really. Despite a solid first two days at the Kitchenaid Senior PGA Championship, even with a major title on his resume he was still not considered a contender to win.
However, by the time Sunday’s final round concluded, Cejka showed why he should have been seen as a favorite to win at all from the start.
Cejka was able to hold off names such as KJ Choi, Retief Goosen and Steve Stricker to earn the PGA Championship at the Southern Hill Country Club in Tulsa,
“You know, I have no words. It’s incredible. Seeing and knowing all those names who are up there on the trophy and being finally on the trophy myself, it’s a dream come true,” Cejka said. “It was a tough week. It’s a beautiful golf course. Historic golf course. Monday when I played for the first time here I walked those fairways and remember seeing this on TV in all those years and I can’t even describe how it feels to be here and touching the trophy. It’s incredible. I’m just super blessed. I’m super happy. It’s an incredible feeling right now.”
Cejka shot a 3-under 67 on the final day to finish at 8-under (272) and four shots ahead of Tim Petrovic. It earned him his second straight major championship on the senior tour.
During his final round, Cejka didn’t run into any serious trouble until the 16th hole when he knocked into a bunker just off the green. A mishap could have easily have turned the hole into a bogey or even double bogey and really change the direction of the match.
However, Cejka was in control and calmy worked his way back onto the green and saved par.
That pretty much sealed the match for Cejka, who headed to the 17th hole with a three-shot lead over Choi, Goosen and Petrovic.
“I was pretty nervous the last four, five holes. It showed. I had tough shots. I made a lot of great up-and-downs,” Cejka said. “That saved me today. This is what we practice for all those years for shots like this. And I was so many times in a situation where it didn’t work out. So it’s really, I’m really glad and excited that those up-and-downs and those bunker shots finally worked when you need it.”
For added measure he added a birdie on 17, which made the walk up the 18th fairway surreal for Cejka.
“I didn’t want to celebrate too much. I know you have three, four shots cushion, in golf everything is possible,” Cejka said. “I wanted to really be calm until the ball is in the hole, until I sign my scorecard. When the ball was finally in the hole, it was just incredible and having my great friend Florian on the bag and sharing this with him, it’s incredible.”
Stricker entered Sunday with one shot lead over Cejka. The two had battled three weeks earlier at the Regions Tradition in Alabama, which Cejka won in a playoff.
This time around there would be no drama as Stricker shot a 77 and ended up tied for 11th.
“I was expecting him to come out and just put so much pressure on it still as a great player as he normally is,” Cejka said of Stricker. “But it’s golf. Even the best players have just a bad day or a bad week.”
The victory earned Cejka, 50, a spot in the 2022 PGA Championship, which will just happen to be back at Southern Hills. So he will be coming into the event with a little knowledge and experience on his side as he faces off with some younger competition.
“Maybe the setup will be too tough for me,” Cejka said. “Although, you know, there was a 50-year-old (Phil Mickelson) winning last week, so it will be great. It’s a beautiful golf course. I’ll be honored to play here again, no matter what venue, no matter what championship. And I’m excited and I’ll definitely give it a shot.”
Copy & Photo by Michael Kinney