Tom Kite: The 42-year-old version

Tom Kite did something at the U.S. Senior Open that’s never been done before. He shot 28 and broke the USGA Men’s Championship record for the low nine-hole score.

The Indianwood G&CC just north of Detroit, Michigan, is a 35 – 35, par 70 classic worthy of a U.S. Open. In fact, Kite said that he never saw this kind of score coming because the course was so challenging, particularly the back nine:

You don’t get rounds like that very often, especially in major championships.

I think the back side is significantly more difficult than the front nine, and I think the scores will show that throughout the week.  There will be some opportunities to take it relatively low on the front nine and try to hang on for dear life on the back nine. There’s not that many opportunities on the back.

And that’s what happened to him, running into a double-bogey 5 on the 194-yard 17th.

And then the questioning turned to how, at age 62, he was able to shoot such a low score and wasn’t he now outside the 50 to 55 year-old window that is the Champions Tour?

You probably haven’t read, but 60 is the new 40.  You know, you start looking at the guys that are out here, and they’re working at it.  They’re staying in shape.  They’re working on their game.  They’re practicing.

And I think you’re going to see a lot — I won’t say a lot, but you’re going to see a number of guys in their 60s continue to play well, where in previous years on the Champions Tour, 15, 20 years ago, you had about a five‑year window that you needed to capitalize on.  Now, I think that window is 10, 12, maybe even — you look at Hale Irwin, 68 years old.  He looks terrific.  He’s in great shape.  He feels good.  He’s playing well.  And just kind of gives inspiration, watching his play and it’s terrific.

I’m using those guys as a motivation because those are my contemporaries.  Those are my peers.  I’m working hard at it, trying to stay in shape.

I think you’ll see the same thing on the PGA Tour, where it used to be, if you got in your mid-40s, you were done.  You’re seeing more and more guys that are in their mid-40s playing well on the PGA Tour.  Again, the fitness is key.

This is also apparently caddie week at the Open. Top dog goes to Lance Ten Broeck, who finished one stroke back of Kite at 4-under. Known primarily as Jesper Parnevik’s caddie, he shot 2-under on each side and is T2 with Bernhard Langer.

What few people may know about Ten Broeck is that he was a player in his own right on the PGA Tour, playing in 349 PGA Tour events in his career and making the cut 159 times. That 159 cuts is a magic number because if you make more than 150 cuts, you are perpetually exempt into PGA Tour events, albeit with a very low priority and rarely getting in (it’s almost always as an alternate when not enough alternates show up at a tournament site).

So when he’s on the bag for Parnevik, he will frequently commit to play just in case. Well, at this year’s Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, his ship came in. He came off his morning round with Parnevik and found out he had a 1:45 tee time. The only problem was that he didn’t have any clubs or proper clothes. As Jeff Rude reports in Hate to Be Rude:

So he bought some pants at Dillard’s at a nearby mall, borrowed Richard S. Johnson’s clubs, Tag Ridings’ putter, David Duval’s shoes, Lee Janzen’s glove and Parnevik’s used balls from the morning round.

The adventure the next morning was more complicated because his round overlapped with Parnevik’s and Johnson’s. So he had to get a different set of clubs before his 8:45 tee time. He came up with Johnson’s backup irons and 3-wood, Fredrik Jacobson’s wedges and a hybrid from Glen Day. Playing with only 13 clubs, he managed five birdies, two more than on opening day.

It wasn’t enough, but it was quite an accomplishment that he was able to go 36 holes in one day, 18 as a caddie and 18 as a player.

Looked at another way, it’s also a measure of just how good PGA Tour players are. The guy cobbles together a ragtag set of clubs, doesn’t even have his own shoes and shoots 71 – 70. He did miss the cut by two, but still. And this guy is “only” a caddie. Imagine what a currently exempt Tour player is capable of.

The other caddie is Damon Green, Zach Johnson’s regular caddie. Also a good player in his own right, he won more than 70 mini-tour events over the years, played in a number of (Nationwide) Tour events and once missed a short putt at Q-School that would have earned him his PGA Tour card.

He shot 2-under on the front and even on the back to end up at T9 with the likes of Mark Calcavecchia, and lefty, Russ Cochran.

2 under is unbelievable.  I didn’t think there was anyone who would beat 2 under for the tournament in the practice rounds. I played really, really good today, really good.  Hit a lot of fairways for me and made four birdies and two bogeys, I guess.  I three‑putted twice.  Those were my only bogeys.  It was solid.

And finally, a post script about the subject of yesterday’s post, Gerry James. Unfortunately, reality ran headlong into his limited tournament experience and he shot 9-over.

He did average 299.5 yards off the tee and he said that he was going to be hitting some fairway woods and irons off some of the tees. He only hit 5 of 14 fairways (not always a stat that reflects how playable a second shot was) and, with 37 putts, didn’t putt to his sense of himself as a pretty good putter. He had 3 bogeys, 4 double bogeys and offset them with 2 birdies, but it’s hard to know how the damage was done.

In any event, they don’t interview guys who post high scores, so it’s disappointing not to be able to hear his reaction to his day. But given his attitude, I’m sure he will be looking forward to Friday’s round optimistically.

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One Response to Tom Kite: The 42-year-old version

  1. Betty Weinstein says:

    Thanks for the nice commentary on my brother lance. We are very excited for him and hope he can hang in there and make a good showing. Betty