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Published: Saturday, 7/30/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Senior's resume lacks a U.S. prize

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST
Senior’s best golf year was 1989 when he swept the Aussie Big Three – Australian PGA, Australian Open, and Johnnie Walker Classic. Senior’s best golf year was 1989 when he swept the Aussie Big Three – Australian PGA, Australian Open, and Johnnie Walker Classic.
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Peter Senior has played in golf tournaments all over the world. Won a bunch of them, too. He has enjoyed the highest of highs – we’ll tell you about 1989 and 2010 – and, sure, there have been the lows, too. Golfers seem to remember those the best.

But he has experienced both sides of the coin in just two rounds at the U.S. Senior Open.

When he walked off the course Thursday after once reaching 6-under-par, but bogeying four of his last eight holes, a discouraged Senior said he had “finished in an ambulance.”

He admitted he “thought a lot about it [Thursday] night. You know, nobody likes to start off like that and then throw it away at the end.”

Friday, he played the rugged back nine first, made the turn in 1-under and then brought it home in 67 to move into the thick of things, three shots off the lead, at Inverness Club.

Somewhere between sundown and a soggy sunup and another sultry mid-day in T-Town, Senior got out of the ambulance, “put on a few Band-Aids and came out and played OK. You saw me yesterday. It’s totally different. I’m back in the tournament now.”

Yes he is, as he has been so many times. Senior has scored 30 wins, a lot of them with a big, broomstick putter. He is a legend in Australia, one of that country’s most popular athletes of all time. He has won there, in Japan, and in Europe.

There is, however, one place he has never won, one world he dearly wants to conquer.

“I’d love to win in America,” the 51-year-old Senior said. “I’d love to win a major. I’d love to win on the Champions Tour. I’ve had opportunities to do it; I just have to jump over the hill and get it done. I’ve told Hale Irwin that if I can win we’ll have 46 between us.”

Senior laughed after delivering that line. Irwin, of course, has 45 wins on the Champions Tour, the most all-time. The U.S. Open winner at Inverness in 1979 also has enough major championship trophies to weigh down a mantle.

Senior’s goals are more modest.

“I’m still really keen to play good golf, and when you look at the guys who have come onto this tour in the last 12 or 18 months, it’s going to take some really good golf to win,” he said.

Senior, of course, is one of them. He won the Champions Tour qualifying tournament in November, 2009 in Arizona, closing with a 66 for a 17-under total over four days. Considering there were roughly a gazillion players competing for five playing cards, that should probably count as his American win right there.

Shortly thereafter, he won the 2010 Australian PGA Championship for a third time 21 years after the first time. For this one, he beat 1996 U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy, 18 years his junior, in a playoff. He capped the year by picking on guys his own age and winning the Australian Senior Open.

That 1-2 punch probably represented Senior’s biggest accomplishment since sweeping the Big Three in Aussie golf – Australian PGA, Australian Open, and Johnnie Walker Classic – in 1989.

It’s not that Senior disappeared in all of those years in between; only for some of them.

He basically gave up international golf for a decade while in his 40s. The lament of most globe-trotting golfers is the extended time away from their families. Senior didn’t want to miss his three kids growing up so he said goodbye to playing in the U.S. and Europe and Japan and reintroduced himself to his family.

He decided a year ago that with his youngest child, son Mitchell, turning 16 it was time to start racking up those frequent flyer miles again.

And he returned with a vengeance. In addition to his big wins in Australia, Senior finished third in the Senior British Open and sixth in the U.S. version.

He also qualified for, and made the cut, in the British Open at St. Andrews. It is a tournament in which he has posted top-20 finishes six times during his career.

So, there remains only one blank on his impressive resume. An American win is the goal. An American major championship would be over the moon.

Two more rounds like Fridays’s at Inverness Club and this could very possibly be a true Senior Open.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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