Some random notes, courtesy of the USGA for the 2012 US Senior Open at Indianwood Country Club in Lake Orion, Michigan:
OLDEST & YOUNGEST – Dave Eichelberger, at age 68 (born Sept. 3, 1943), is the oldest player in this year’s U.S. Senior Open field. Eichelberger won the 1999 Senior Open. Graham Marsh, the 1997 Senior Open champion, is also 68 (born Jan. 14, 1944). Hale Irwin, a two-time U.S. Senior Open winner, is 67. Mike Nixon, an amateur who advanced through qualifying in Nashville, Tenn., is 65 (born Sept. 16, 1946) and is nine days older than Gil Morgan. John Bermel is the youngest in the field. He turned 50 on July 8.
FIELD FOR THE AGES – There are 12 players in the 2012 U.S. Senior Open field who have celebrated their 50th birthday since February. John Bermel, the head men’s and women’s golf coach at University of Northern Iowa, celebrated his 50th birthday on July 8. Andrew Magee, Doug Rohrbaugh, Gerry Norquist and Michael Castro each turned 50 in May.
There are 22 players in the field who are 60 or older. Hale Irwin, 67, and Allen Doyle, 63, have each captured a pair of U.S. Senior Opens. Dave Eichelberger, Graham Marsh and Bruce Fleisher are also champions.
SENIOR OPEN CHAMPIONS – Past U.S. Senior Open champions Eduardo Romero, Fred Funk and Bernhard Langer will play together the first two rounds. The group starts at the first hole on Thursday at 1:40 p.m. EDT Romero won the 2008 Senior Open by four strokes at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. In 2009, Fred Funk had the lowest score relative to par (20 under) of any champion when he won at Crooked Stick in Carmel, Ind. Bernhard Langer recorded a three-stroke victory in 2010 at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash.
RETURN TO MICHIGAN – Tze-Chung (T.C.) Chen returns to Michigan, where he made a run at the 1985 U.S. Open at Oakland Hills Country Club. Chen, the first professional golfer from Chinese Taipei to earn a PGA Tour card, recorded the first double eagle in U.S. Open history and once held the championship’s lowest score after 36 holes (134) and 54 holes (203). In the final round he chipped out of the rough at the par-4 5th hole, but hit his ball on the follow-through for a two-stroke penalty, leading to a quadruple-bogey 8. He tied for second, one shot behind Andy North. In 2012, Chen shared medalist honors in U.S. Senior Open qualifying with a 70 at Annandale Golf Club in Pasadena, Calif.
THIS IS THE POLICE – Ron Schroeder, a retired police officer, spent 27 years on the City of Houston force. His second career has been golf. He won the 2006 Texas South Amateur Championship was a five-time winner of the Greater Houston City Amateur (1992, ’93, ’95, 2000, ’05). Schroeder, who was the medalist at the Boerne, Texas, sectional, was forced from the game for nearly a year followed a 2008 automobile accident. While heading to a mini-tour event in Arkansas, another car crossed the dividing line causing a head-on collision. Schroeder suffered wrist, hand, foot and chest injuries.
HEAVY LIFTING – Gerry James, who grew up 180 miles west of Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Fruitport, Mich., was a bodybuilder and professional wrestler before taking up golf at age 29. James headed for California when he was 18 and won the state’s 1990 bodybuilding title in the heavyweight and overall categories. He later was known as “Agent Orange” on the pro wrestling circuit. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, James went on to win the senior division of RE/ MAX World Long Drive Championship in 2005 and 2006. A former competitor on Golf Channel’s “The Big Break: Mesquite,” James teaches golf in the Saint Augustine, Fla., area.
KICKING AROUND – Ron Allen has been a high school soccer and golf coach in New Mexico for nearly a quarter century. He led the Sandia High Matadors to the 1992 Class 4A state championship and six state runner-up finishes in soccer. He was named the NMHSCA state high school soccer coach of the year on five occasions. Allen, who works part time at a local golf course, will celebrate his 57th birthday on the day of the U.S. Senior Open’s third round.
BACK TO SCHOOL I – Robert Thompson, the medalist at the Fort Worth, Texas, sectional qualifier, was the 1979 NAIA national champion at Sam Houston State University. He met his wife, Chris, in college, where she was a member of the tennis team and later would coach the sport at their alma mater for 16 years. Chris, who has been Robert’s caddie many times over the last three decades, currently works at Sam Houston State as associate director of athletics for student services and senior women’s administrator.
BACK TO SCHOOL II – Ronald Kilby, 56, was a member of the University of Houston’s 1977 NCAA championship golf team. Several of his teammates went on to play on the PGA Tour, including Ed Fiori and Keith Fergus. Kilby, a real estate agent from McAllen, Texas, was a 2011 USGA Senior Amateur quarterfinalist and is playing in his 15th USGA championship.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE – Greg Reynolds, a 65-year-old from Grand Blanc, Mich., lives less than 40 miles from Indianwood Golf & Country Club and is one of the state’s top amateur players. Reynolds, who plays out of Flint Golf Club, is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame and was named the Golf Association of Michigan’s Senior Player of the Decade (2000-09). The retired General Motors executive has won 15 statewide tournaments and played in 35 state amateurs. In addition, Reynolds won the 2002 USGA Senior Amateur and was the championship’s runner-up in 2004. He played the first two rounds of the 2005 U.S. Senior Open with the legendary Arnold Palmer during his final USGA championship.
DONE IT ALL – Mike Donald, who was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., nearly 150 miles from Lake Orion, is playing in his second U.S. Senior Open. Donald, who lost to Hale Irwin in the 1990 U.S. Open, which was decided on the 91st hole, started playing golf at age 12 and once was a flower deliveryman and a baseball umpire. From 1980 to 98, he participated in 550 events on the PGA Tour. From 1992 to 2005, he played in 123 Web.com Tour events.
DALEY DOUBLE – Joe Daley advanced to the U.S. Senior Open through sectional qualifying in Edina, Minn., on June 14, then became an exempt player three weeks later by winning the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club in Pittsburgh. Daley, a non-exempt player on the Champions Tour prior to capturing the Senior Players, won by two strokes with a tournament-best 24 birdies. He held off Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman and Fred Couples, a trio of major champions.
THE COACH – John Bermel is appearing in his first U.S. Senior Open after making a par on the sixth playoff hole to earn one of two spots in sectional qualifying at Big Foot Country Club in Fontana, Wis. Bermel, the youngest player in the field after turning 50 on July 8, is the head men’s and women’s golf coach at the University of Northern Iowa. His brother, Jamie, is also a head coach on the NCAA Division I level at Colorado State University.
HOLED OUT – Steve Krause was the medalist at the Fontana, Wis., sectional qualifier with a 3-under-par 70. But what made his round unique was scores of 2-2-1-2 on Big Foot Country Club’s par 3s. Krause aced the 175-yard 15th hole with a 7-iron and nearly had another by using a sand wedge at the 129-yard 17th. During his career, Krause advanced to U.S. Open sectional qualifying 14 or 15 times, by his estimation, but never made the 156-player championship field.
NO USGA STRANGER – Rick DeWitt, the medalist at the Westminster, Colo. sectional qualifier, has played in 21 USGA championships. He previously met David Duval in match play at the 1990 U.S. Amateur and squared off with Adam Scott in the 1999 U.S. Amateur Public Links. DeWitt, who was inducted into the Colorado Hall of Fame in 2002, at one time used a unique pre-shot routine in which he placed the club on the ground behind the ball to aid his shot alignment. His caddie then removed the club prior to hitting.
COME FLY WITH ME – Retired Air Force pilot Dennis Webb is making his second U.S. Senior Open appearance. Webb, a 53-year-old amateur who qualified at the Turlock, Calif., sectional, is a captain on a Federal Express MD-11. He has won three club championships at Air Force bases during his career.
MILITARY DAY – The United States Golf Association will recognize the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces at the 2012 U.S. Senior Open Championship. On Wednesday, July 11, the USGA is extending free admission to all active duty, retired and Reserve military personnel, while U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal associates will be eligible for a special ticket offer for the championship rounds, July 12–15. On July 11, the flagstick on the 16th hole will feature the U.S. flag to recognize the military personnel’s service to our country. Larry Nelson, the 1983 U.S. Open champion who is in the Senior Open field, served in the U.S. Army and was an Infantry A-Team Leader in Vietnam.
ALL ABOUT JULY – U.S. Open champion Tom Watson has filled up all his July weekends after missing the previous two months due to an injury. Prior to the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club, Watson played in the Senior Players Championship and PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic. Watson, a three-time Senior Open runner-up at, will play in the British Open and Senior British Open to wrap the month. The Senior British Open will be held at Turnberry in Scotland, where Watson won one of his five British Opens in 1977 and nearly one another in 2009.
AS THE WIND BLOWS – Tropical Storm Debby delayed two U.S. Senior Open sectional qualifiers in Florida until Monday, July 2. The Dunedin and Ocala sectionals were scheduled for June 25. Amateur Matthew Avril, the president of a hotel group, was one of two qualifiers in Dunedin. Three-time PGA Tour winner Fulton Allem, who has suffered many medical issues including multiple heart attacks, was the medalist in Ocala.
REIGNING CHAMPS – Defending U.S. Senior Open champion Olin Browne will be grouped with two reigning major senior champions on Thursday and Friday. Russ Cochran won last year’s Senior British Open, while Roger Chapman won the PGA Senior Championship in May. The group starts from the first tee on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. EDT . Browne went wire to wire at Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio, in posting a three-stroke victory at the 2011 Senior Open.
MAJOR SHOTS – Hale Irwin, who has won three U.S. Opens and two Senior Opens, will play with Corey Pavin and Larry Mize the first two rounds. The trio of major champions starts at the 10th hole on Thursday at 1:40 p.m. EDT . Pavin’s memorable 4-wood on the 72nd hole led to his 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Mize pitched in for birdie on the second playoff hole to win the 1987 Masters Tournament. The highlight of Irwin’s third U.S. Open title, at Medinah Country Club in 1990, was his 45-foot birdie putt that placed him in a Monday playoff.
CONTENDERS – Jeff Sluman, Loren Roberts and Tom Lehman, U.S. Open runners-up in the 1990s, are grouped together on Thursday and Friday. The group will begin from the 10th tee in the first round at 1:30 p.m. EDT . Sluman finished second to Tom Kite in 1992, Roberts was in a three-man playoff in 1994, and Lehman shared second with Davis Love III in 1996 Open at nearby Oakland Hills Country Club.
ON TOUR – Michael Allen has won multiple titles on the Champions Tour this season. Allen owns a pair of top-10 finishes in his previous two U.S. Senior Open appearances. Gary Wolstenholme, who is also in this year’s Senior Open field, has won twice on the European Senior Tour.
Multiple Champions Tour Winners in 2012
2, Michael Allen (Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay, Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf)
Multiple European Senior Tour Winners in 2012
2, Gary Wolstenholme (Mallorca Open Senior, Benahavis Senior Masters)