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Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 7/1/2003

Lietzke, Toledo both win

Bruce Lietzke won the trophy but Inverness took the prize.

The veteran professional won his first major tournament over the weekend - the United States Senior Open - by outplaying some of the world's best golfers. But once again a national television audience was reminded that one of America's truly great golf courses is located right here.

Inverness Club looked spectacular - in person and on television. And it played tough. Only three golfers finished under par. Golf courses that host golf's major events traditionally are groomed to test the pros' skills as well as every club in their bag. Fairways become narrower, the rough is higher and thicker, and par suddenly becomes a very good score.

In fact, except for the golfers at the top of the leaderboard, the scores didn't really matter. Some of golf's greatest names came to Toledo - legendary performers such as Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Arnold Palmer, who at 73 still can excite a gallery.

Golf, like baseball, is a sport steeped in tradition and history. Putting some of the best players to ever tee it up on a course where Byron Nelson was once head pro was a perfect match.

And there were so many special stories at the USGA's 24th Senior Open.

Watson, certainly one of the greatest golfers of his era, made a run at the title but finished second. The bigger story, however, was the special bond and partnership between Watson and his caddy, Bruce Edwards, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease. Edwards has no use or time for pity - his own or anyone else's - and it seems his personal courage has actually elevated Watson's play in recent weeks, even as it inspires the game's fans and millions of others.

Fellow pro Hubie Green was battling his own demons. The likable Green is fighting cancer of the mouth and throat, but he played valiantly through the tournament, even making the cut, despite facing the start of long and difficult chemotherapy that was to begin yesterday.

But perhaps the week's most poignant moments came when golf legends Palmer and Nicklaus said what is doubtlessly good-bye to Inverness. Palmer didn't make the cut; Nicklaus did, though it was a struggle.

These are the two players who helped golf explode in popularity decades ago, and the appreciative fans at Inverness showered them with warm applause at every opportunity.

And it was another legend - Player - who had the most telling comment of the tournament. Never, he said, had he ever played in a tournament where the club was a greater host. The people of Inverness and the people of Toledo “spoiled us to death,” Player said, offering the notion that Toledo should become a regular stop for the Senior Tour.

Judd Silverman and his army of volunteers deserve a tip of the golf cap for that. Maybe Player's got something there.



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