It was a windy day on May 6, but that didn't stop Mark Spencer from making history.
The Winter Park Golf Course has its first amateur championship winner — and a new course record for other golfers to chase.
Jacksonville resident Mark Spencer made history at the Winter Park Golf Course May 6-7, when he captured the inaugural Winter Park Amateur Championship, golfing a 28 and a 34 between the two days of the tournament.
Spencer’s 28 strokes through the nine-hole course put him seven under par and has been named as the official course record since the course was renovated and reshaped last year.
Golf Pro Shop Manager Gregg Pascale said the record for the original golf course was 26 but added today’s golf course is more challenging with its layout and thus deserved a new record score.
Spencer’s score included five birdies on holes three, four, six, eight and nine, as well as one eagle on the fifth hole.
The score itself is impressive — beating out 41 other golfers, Pascale said — but even more so considering the conditions that day.
“He did it on a day with howling winds,” Pascale said. “I got here at 5 o’clock in the morning, and the flags were just straight out. It was just blowing.”
The 46-year-old champion said he’s had experience golfing in the wind, having spent a part of his youth growing up in Oklahoma. When Spencer wasn’t playing football in the spring and fall, he’d hit the golf course in the summer.
“The high winds and exposed courses in Oklahoma force you to learn how to strike the ball properly,” Spencer said. “If you asked me who my teacher was growing up, I’d say ‘Mother Nature.’”
Spencer first heard about the Winter Park Golf Course and its renovation on the Golf Channel. Working for a health care management firm with customers in Maitland and Lake Mary, Spencer frequently makes the drive to the Winter Park area.
It wasn’t long until Spencer gave the course a try, and he fell in love with it, he said.
The Texas-born golfer heard about the amateur tournament, and the rest was history.
“It was really nice to win, and it was nice to set a course record, but the biggest honor was to have my name somehow associated with what I think is going right in the game (at the Winter Park Golf Course),” Spencer said.
Winter Park’s golf course is not only fun and challenging but also accessible, he said, which entices amateur players to continue coming back.
“I’ve seen a lot of golf businesses struggle and go out of business,” Spencer said. “Everything that Winter Park is doing is what’s right with the game. Unfortunately, there’s just not enough of it in the country.”
Spencer said he hopes other golfers will try to beat his record but warned he plans to return next year to do the same. He’ll be going for nine under par, or 26 strokes.
“Hopefully, it spurs someone to say, ‘Hey, if that old guy can do it, I can beat that,’” Spencer said. “There’s a lot of competitive people out there. I’m hopeful it spurs people to get involved with that facility.”