Sunday, Dec 04, 2016
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Family reunion

Toledo-born Sovay to play first major in birthplace

Tom-Sovay-tees-off-at-U-S-Senior-Open-practice-round-at-Inverness

Tom Sovay tees off while practicing for the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club. The 50-year-old from Mukilteo, Wash., was born in Toledo but has not been back since he was 3 months old.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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Sunday evening, as he and his wife drove along I-475 to the hotel they’ll be calling home this week, Tom Sovay saw something that reminded him of July 10, 1961.

“That’s where I was born,” Sovay informed his wife, Rose, as he motioned to a sign for St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee.

Sovay, who will play in the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness this week, doesn’t recall details about his life in Toledo. Having left town for Seattle with his parents after three months, how could he?

Now, the 50-year-old Sovay has returned to his birthplace hoping to make a memory or two, with the added bonus of honoring his late father. A seven-time teaching pro of the year for his PGA section in the state of Washington, Sovay put all lessons on hold this week so he can play in the most glamorous event of his career.

“I’ve been using every tournament up to this point of the year as a practice round for this week,” Sovay, of Mukilteo, Wash., said prior to teeing off Monday afternoon. “It’s not putting all of your eggs in one basket, but I haven’t taken a lot of time off until a week or two before this to get ready, because this is real special.”

It’s special for reasons beyond the obvious. In December, Sovay lost his father to a cardiovascular issue. Jim Sovay was 97. Confident that his father’s health would improve by summer, Sovay and his two brothers made a promise to their father that they’d put him on a train from Washington to Toledo so he would be at Inverness when Tom played this week.

When Jim Sovay died, his two oldest sons offered a stern message to their younger brother.

“We’re still going, so you better make it,” Jim and Joe Sovay told Tom.

Tom qualified, and did so in thrilling fashion, sinking a 15-foot putt on the final hole of a sectional qualifier in June in Woodinville, Wa. to earn a berth in the Open by a single stroke.

As promised, his brothers will be here. Jim, the oldest of the boys, has been in the area the past month or so to visit family and was on the Inverness grounds Monday as his brother got familiar with the Inverness course. Joe was expected to fly in from Phoenix Monday night and will caddie for Tom the remainder of the week.

Tom Sovay figures he has 100 or so cousins still living in the area, most of whom he has never met. One of them is second cousin Torey Brummet, a Bowling Green State University golfer and Cardinal Stritch graduate who served as caddie Monday.

“I’m just thrilled to be here,” Sovay said. “What a treat.”

A year ago, Sovay wished he was a year older. At 49, he failed to meet the age requirement to qualify for the Senior Open, which was held less than an hour from his home, at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wa. Had Sovay been eligible and qualified, it would have made for an interesting story, one about a popular local golf instructor who didn’t begin playing the sport until after college.

One year later, Sovay is doing what he wished he could have accomplished last summer — to play in the Senior Open, and to do it at home.

“Lo and behold, I looked and said, ‘Oh my God, it’s in Toledo next year,’” he said. “What an insane coincidence that is.”

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.

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