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Published: Saturday, 7/30/2011

U.S. SENIOR OPEN NOTEBOOK

Emotional afternoon for Sovay, brothers

Father's ashes carried around course

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Joe Sovay carried a small capsule containing some of his father’s ashes around Inverness Club as he caddied for his brother, Tom Sovay, Friday afternoon at the U.S. Senior Open.

Although Tom Sovay did not make the cut Friday, that was not the reason for his deep outpouring of emotion afterwards. Sovay struggled to find the words to describe his two-day journey to honor his father, Jim Sovay, who died at age 97 in December.

“I’m overwhelmed with emotion,” Tom Sovay said, his voice cracking. “It’s pretty cool. How I did really didn’t matter. I had my brothers and my cousins. My dad’s upstairs. So it felt great.”

Sovay, who was born in Toledo and now lives in the state of Washington, had promised his father he would bring him with him to Inverness this week. But Jim’s health did not improve, and when he passed away, his three sons vowed to fulfill the pledge.

With tears welling in his eyes and overcome with emotion, Joe Sovay could not speak as he carried his brother’s bag to the clubhouse.

“It was great,” Joe managed to say.

Sovay moved from the area when he was an infant. But with about 100 members of his family still living in the area, Sovay had his own cheering section.

“It was just something really cool to do together, and my other brother, [Jim], was in the stands,” Tom said. “It was a nice gift.”

Sovay just turned 50, the minimum age for the Champions Tour, on July 10 and was playing in his first event. He shot a 75 on Friday and a 76 yesterday to finish 9-over par. He was tied for 103rd place.

Sovay said he had some “absolute glaring misses” and could not get his drives in the fairway enough. But he said his putting was phenomenal. Sovay did not have a three putt in either round and had two birdies.

Savoy called the course “a beast.” He said holes 14-17 were particularly brutal.

“I took a knife to a gun fight,” Sovay said. “I was just flat out not good enough.”

Sovay, who is a teaching pro back in his hometown of Mukilteo, Wash., said he gave 65 hours of lessons last week alone. He had qualified for the Senior Open in spectacular style, sinking a 15-foot putt on the final hole of a sectional qualifier to earn a berth by one stroke.

“My wife [Rose] was there, and I hugged her after the round,” Tom said. “I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz here. Everyone was just so nice.”

COOK COOKED: John Cook, who entered the Senior Open as the tour’s money leader with $1.68 million this season, failed to make the cut and had some choice words for himself after his 4-over par performance Friday.

“Horrible, terrible, pitiful, disgusting,” said Cook, who finished at 4-over after shooting even on Thursday. “It was just an awful two days. I’m highly disappointed in myself. I tried too hard. I put extra pressure on myself.”

DODDS DOES WELL: Trevor Dodds, who is from the south African country of Namibia, is within striking distance at 5-under. Dodds has played in just three tour events this year and did not make the cut last week at the Senior British Open.

“Obviously not playing as much as you want, you’re always jittery the first round,” said Dodds, who shot 3-under on Thursday. “So yesterday I controlled myself really well considering I was pretty anxious. And today I was much more relaxed and hit the ball pretty good.”

DISQUALIFIED: South African David Frost was disqualified from the Senior Open for failing to record a score on the par-4 9th.

On his final hole of the second round, Frost hit his tee shot right, and when he arrived at his ball, he found it resting out of bounds. Frost chose not to return to the tee, as the USGA rulebook calls for, and he was consequently disqualified.

Frost was 5-over for the tournament at the time — three shots above the projected cut line — after shooting a 3-over 74 in the first round.

DISTRACTED: As the weeks pass, Japanese golfer Kiyoshi Murota is finding it a little easier to concentrate on his game. He’s done that well enough midway through the U.S. Senior Open to post scores of 68 and 69 at Inverness Club, putting him four shots off the lead.

But Murato indicated through an interpreter Friday that his heart and thoughts are still in Japan ever since the 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent 33-foot tsunami devastated major portions of the coastal region of his homeland on March 11.

Murota said he resides 200 kilometers (roughly 124 miles) from the disaster at the nuclear power plant which was caused by the quake.

“Usually I can focus on golf, but I cannot do that now,” Murota said.

“Japan cannot recover yet because it is still worrying about the nuclear power plant and radiation. It’s still a very dangerous situation and a tough time in Japan.”

DREAMY: If nothing else, former Sylvania resident Steve Schaff was consistent on his “dream” ride at the U.S. Senior Open. The unlikely entrant, who drove up from his home in Gainesville, Fla., and gained a last-minute spot in the 156-player field as an alternate, shot 39 on the front and back nines both days for a pair of 78s, and a 14-over total at Inverness Club.

But the 1975 Sylvania High School graduate, who was an accomplished high school and junior amateur player locally in that decade, did finish on a good note. He recorded birdies on his final two holes Friday.

“I really wish I could have played better,” Schaff said, “but you know, when you get in these conditions, it’s tough. I really had a hard time. But it was great.

“I didn’t score great, but this was an experience of a lifetime for sure. I really don’t have words to describe the experience I’ve had. It’s going to take some time to sink in.”

Schaff, the survivor of three heart attacks, two strokes and other health issues in recent years, had shot 5-under-par over the final four holes of a U.S. Senior Open qualifying tournament in Florida just to force a playoff. He lost that playoff, but was a high-ranking alternate and gained a spot on Monday night when Scott Hoch withdrew.

—Zach Silka contributed to this report



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