Robert Samuels is always happy when the season-ending Regions Matches roll around because he almost always wins something, which is quite change from the regular season for the hard-luck Hephzibah golfer.
Under the match-play format, Samuels has four chances to win when the matches are played this weekend at Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson.
He’ll play in a pair of two-man team matches for the Georgia team against South Carolina today and in a singles match Sunday. There’s also the possibility of being on the winning team (the series between Georgia and South Carolina is tied at 12-12-1).
Winning a Regions Bank Amateur Series tournament in the senior division during the season is another story, or long-running saga, as the good-natured Samuels calls it.
The 58-year-old Samuels has finished as a runner-up 16 times since his last victory, in 2007. He was also a bridesmaid in the event before his 2007 win, so he has 17 career runner-up finishes.
“It’s just the way it is,” Samuels said. “I don’t let that stuff bother me anymore. It used to hurt.”
He had a fast start in the series after turning 50 in the middle of the 2005 season. He won his third start, at the Orville White Cup, winning a playoff against Mike Jackson and Mike Kelley.
Less than two years later, he won again in the Camellia Classic at Belle Meade, closing with 9-under-par 63. That is the low round in the 25-year history of the series because the seniors played the same white tees as the regular division in that event.
Since then, it’s been nothing but heartbreak for Samuels, who is 0-4 in playoffs since the Orville White playoff victory.
“When I turned 50, I won quickly,” Samuels said. “I was hoping (to win) at least one or two a year. That ain’t happened like that.”
Samuels’ fellow competitors know how talented he is and feel for him.
“He’s as tough as nails,” said 2012 senior player of the year Glen Hurt. “He hits it a long way and he putts well. He’s got a good sound game. There are no weaknesses in Robert’s game.”
Through it all, Samuels has always come back for more, playing in almost every event. If he’s been frustrated by his close calls, he hasn’t let it show.
“You know what, I’ve always thought the world of Robert,” Hurt said. “He’s a great guy. My wife (Sharon) pulls for Robert after me. If I can’t win, she’s pulling for Robert. That gives you an idea of what a good guy he is.”
A year ago, Samuels had another dose of unfortunate luck at the end of the regular season. With two tournaments to play, he was in line to easily make the six-man Georgia senior team for the matches, extending his streak of making the team every full year he’s been eligible. Players make their teams based on points earned for top 20 finishes during the season, and Samuels has racked up a lot of points with his second-place finishes.
Because of sudden weekend work commitments, however, Samuels was unable to play in the final two events of the season and missed making the team by one point.
“I just laughed it off,” Samuels said. “Just another one of those things in the saga.”