Playing in the 2013 US Senior Open — What a Week!

For the past several years my career has focused on teaching the game of golf rather than playing competitively. It’s a decision I made for a number of reasons and one that I would do over again if I had the chance. That said I occasionally find myself yearning for competition. And, even though my career has shifted to that of a teacher, I never fully abandoned my playing days and sometimes find myself competing in a rare PGA TOUR or more recently a Champions Tour event.

That is the exact situation I found myself in this past week as I was able to qualify for the 2013 US Senior Open held at Omaha Country Club. This is the first time I’ve competed in this particular event and it was a lot of fun from start-to-finish.

June 25th was the date of my qualifying round and I must admit I was playing in a terrific group including Robert Gregorski (A) and Eddie Terasa — both great players from the Wisconsin area. I generally tend to play a little better when I feel comfortable with my group and I was able to get off to a fast start, making the turn at one-under. With the help of my son Jake, who was caddying for me, I was able to stay patient, and when I teed off on 18 I was tied with Eddie and one ahead of Bob. I didn’t know how the rest of the field was doing but I knew I needed to finish ahead of my group. I played aggressive off the tee and hit a cut driver to 135 yards of the green and proceeded to hit my approach about 18 feet left of the hole. I was very nervous, but Jake told me he thought I would make the putt. I took a big breath and rolled the left-to-right putt straight in the middle. Even though we didn’t know if I had made the qualifier Jake and I were really excited.

One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give to a golfer is don’t be afraid to ask for help. A couple weeks back I spend five days visiting my brother John (Men and Women’s Golf Coach at Columbia College) and my dad in Missouri. John helped me with my putting every day — it had been a long time since I had received a putting lesson and I needed it. With the advice and boost of confidence from my brother I was able to hit the last putt with confidence even with the nerves up. Jake and I had made it to the 2013 US Senior Open!

My experience playing in the 2013 US Senior Open was extremely rewarding. I came into the week with few expectations…after all, I’ve only played five total rounds of golf this year! But, I was competing again and for the moment that’s what it was all about. After a couple of days practicing it was time for round one and I felt ready. I played pretty well finishing the day at even par, and to my amazement I found myself inside the top-20 after the first round. Round two wasn’t as pretty, but I managed to hang in and made the cut at +4. Making the cut was huge for me. Not only did it give me confidence that my game is still at a level where I can compete against the best in the world, but it also reaffirmed that if it wasn’t for the lesson I received from my brother John a couple of weeks back, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. Thanks again, John, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support!

I felt confident going into the weekend, but knew I needed to go low to have a chance and, unfortunately, I didn’t have my best stuff on Saturday and Sunday. I ended the tournament T56 at +10, cherishing every moment along the way…the best of which was the time I spent with my son Jake who caddied for me all week. I was also able to catch up with some of my longtime friends as well as a few students.

All-in-all it was a great week. My passion is teaching so by no means would I ever consider joining the Champions Tour full-time, but look for my name on future leader boards as I hope to play in a few more tournaments this year.