Bernier could smell the crown on the turn. He birdied three of the first holes on the back nine.
Bernier said his first thoughts after the win were with six-time defending Senior champ Les Zimmerman. After shooting an 82 on Wednesday, Zimmerman did not play on Thursday in order to be with his ailing mother.
“Our best wishes are to Les and the boys,” Bernier said.
On Thursday, Bernier did what Zimmerman has done for so many years: shine when the moments were biggest at Hunter Golf Club.
“I did shoot a 74 and he would have had to shoot a 3-under to catch me, but he’s capable of that,” Bernier said. “I was very solid today. I smoked the back nine pretty good. I’m pleased.”
Bernier played alongside Del Weston (83-93-176) and Ray Gawlak (91-89-180). Gawlak won the net crown with a 152.
Both Weston and Gawlak were impressed with Bernier.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him play,” Gawlak said.
“Whenever he had bogeys, he would follow them up with birdies,” Weston added. A lot of pars just missed being birdies. He had a lot of tap-ins.”
Bernier said he was happy with his performance.
“I was looking forward to playing Les because he’s the benchmark here,” Bernier said. “I played well today. He’s a great player and a good guy and we will have to get together sometime this month and do it between ourselves.
“This is the best round I have shot in a while,” Bernier added. “I’ve been struggling, but the last week and a half I started hitting the ball again. I’m happy and my wife (Phyllis) is going to be happy, too. She’s not a golfer, but she got up this morning to make me coffee and wish me luck. It’s nice to shoot two decent rounds back-to-back when I needed to.”
Hunter Golf Club head pro Bob Tiedemann said Bernier is a worthy champion.
“Paul Bernier has been a good player here for a long time,” Tiedemann said. “It was well-deserved and he played great. It was unfortunate about Les. I’m sure he would have loved to competed against him. It’s great that someone else won. On the other hand, it’s just unfortunate for Les. He’s had a tough year.
“Hopefully, a few people see it and play next year. Hopefully, it grows,” Tiedemann added. “People forget how much fun it is to compete and play. Paul played great and I was happy for him.”
The City Championships continue on the weekend of Aug. 19-20 with the Meriden City Open.
“It’s always a highlight of the summer and we are looking forward to a great field. We can’t thank Bobby Doyle and Tod Moynihan at Meriden Hyundai enough for their sponsorship support. It helps a lot,” Tiedemann said.