Hale Irwin meets the young golfers during the Tuesday practice round at Salem Country Club.
By ANNE MARIE TOBIN
The U.S. Senior Open at Salem Country Club this summer was by all accounts a resounding success. While 2017 champion Kenny Perry, who shot a record-setting 16-under 264, and runner up Kirk Triplett were battling it down the stretch, there were many stories behind the scenes that made the week memorable.
Here are just a few…
More than 100 North Shore juniors, including a busload from the Camp Eastman summer day camp program at the Torigian Family YMCA in Peabody, were treated to a golf clinic at Salem Country Club during Tuesday’s practice round. The children were introduced to the fundamentals of the golf swing and received a strong message from five-time USGA champion Hale Irwin and honorary chairman and National Hockey League Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who conducted the clinic.
The message? Don’t specialize in just one sport.
“I played baseball in the summers and a lot of hockey, but summer was baseball and I think the break from playing just hockey actually helped my hockey,” Bourque said. “It’s been my experience that kids who play other sports in addition to their favorite end up better off not just as athletes, but in life in general.”
“We distributed 400 tickets to the schools (in Lynn, Peabody, Salem and Danvers), so the kids got to come to Salem and experience the championship,” said General Chairman Bill Sheehan, a Peabody native. “Usually juniors are admitted free with a fully ticketed adult, but that day we reversed it, with the parents getting in with a child.”
Tournament Director Eddie Carbone was also on hand.
“This is what it’s all about, the kids having a chance to see the world’s greatest players,” said Carbone.
Kernwood golf professional Frank Dully spent much of championship week at Salem CC, mostly on the practice range and putting green.
Dully was a second alternate, having narrowly missed qualifying at Kernwood, one of 34 qualifiers conducted by the USGA. Dully’s hopes were boosted early in the week, when a second alternate (Ted Tryba of Orlando, Fla.) got in when John Daly withdrew.
Daly is no stranger to strange tales when it comes to being an alternate.In 1991, Daly was an unknown who, after a fortuitous chain of events, learned a day or two before the PGA Championship that he was in as the ninth alternate. He got in his car and drove all night to Crooked Stick Country Club in Indiana, where he pulled off the biggest upset in golf since Francis Ouimet won the 1913 U.S. Open, not only winning the PGA championship but doing so in dazzling fashion.
Unfortunately, there would be no storybook ending for Dully. An open slot never materialized.
One of the championship’s most heartwarming stories was that of another alternate. Sixty-eight-year-old Charlie Post of Castle Rock, Colo., a Vietnam war veteran who was the last man to obtain entry into the tournament. (He was also the last name on the scoreboard after posting rounds of 82-89 in the first two rounds.)
“He was at home on Monday and received a phone call from the USGA telling him he was next man up should there be another withdrawal,” said Sheehan. “He told me he had played in the two Senior Amateurs, but had never played in a Senior Open, and after he thought about it, he decided he was not going to risk not being able to get here in case someone did pull out, so he hopped on a plane to Logan on Tuesday.”
Sheehan said Post was at Logan Airport at the baggage claim Tuesday night when he got the call he was in, after Scott Hoch withdrew earlier that day.
On Thursday, Post arrived at Salem to prepare for his first round at 2:09 p.m. He was paired with professionals David Frost and Joey Sindelar, only to discover he had left his golf balls in his hotel. The pro shop had been emptied of merchandise and converted into a private dining room for players.
“Wayne Guyer, who was in charge of player services, was racing around trying to find a dozen Titleists,” said Sheehan. “Charlie was so grateful. Both he and Kenny Perry could not say enough about the way they were treated during the tournament, and I think that speaks volumes about the success of the tournament, when the guy who came in first and the guy who came in last felt the same way about their experience.”
A Peabody man allegedly tried to make off with a golf cart full of U.S. Senior Open swag.
At about 4 a.m. Saturday morning, Peabody Police Sgt. James Harkins was working with PGA security to get traffic barriers in place for the third round of the tournament. Harkins found several items scattered on the course that appeared to have been stolen, including Rolex clocks, a portable security radio, clothing, about 30 tickets to the tournament and a ticket scanner, according to Peabody Police Capt. Dennis Bonaiuto.
“It also appears that he attempted to steal a golf cart,” said the captain.
It didn’t take police long to identify Matthew S. French as the suspect. Two days earlier, police responded to a call about a suspicious person near the club entrance, found French and escorted him home.
“Our guys determined that he had a little too much to drink,” said Bonaiuto. “The officers felt that there was a safety issue and provided transportation for him home.”
French was arrested and charged with multiple offenses.
For Salem CC head golf professional Kevin Wood and one of his assistants, Ron Coiro, championship week was all about role reversal. Normally, both men would be reporting to the club at 4:30 a.m. for a long day of work. Instead, both got to experience the Open from inside the ropes instead of inside the pro shop.
It all started with a surprise phone call.
“My phone rang and it was Tom Watson on the line,” said Wood. “He said his regular caddie was unavailable, and asked me if I could find him a caddie.”
Coiro got the nod.
“This all developed 48 hours beforehand,” said Coiro.
“It came out of nowhere.”
Watson wasn’t worried about Coiro’s ability to do a good job.
“Ron’s an assistant pro here and he knows the course,” Watson said. “I’m pretty simple when it comes to setting up a shot. What’s that expression? KISS? Keep It Simple, Stupid.”
Coiro said he was still on cloud nine weeks after the tournament.
“It’s calmed down a little, but it was just a great experience and a lot of fun. To think I was at Augusta (the Masters) in April, and I was on the other side of the ropes watching Freddie Couples, and now (there I was) inside the ropes, walking down the fairway with Freddie and Tom Watson.”
While Coiro saw the serious side of the senior professional circuit, Wood’s experience bordered on the amusing side, playing in the first pairings of the day on both Saturday and Sunday as a marker.
“It was pretty funny, because before the tournament I was just praying that the cut would be an even number because I knew that the USGA always has the host professional play as a marker when there is an odd number of players who make the cut,” said Wood. “I thought the crowds would freak me out, but I never saw them, as I knew my score didn’t mean anything.
“The only thing I saw from the crowd were people who were totally confused, as I didn’t take any time before my shots, I didn’t read putts. I picked up if I was in the way, so we (with caddie Zach Harris) were laughing, because people didn’t know what I was doing.”
Wood said he played well and putted extremely well.
“I made more 6- and 8-footers the last two days than I can remember making in a long time,” said Wood. “Playing in the preview day (with defending champion Gene Sauers, Ray Bourque and Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski) and qualifying round was much more nerve-wracking than this.”
Wood played with amateur Robby Funk on Saturday and Steve Pate, winner of six PGA Tour events, on Sunday.
“They were both good, and I think it helped playing with an amateur the first day. And then,the second day, I was a little worried as he (Pate) is very serious,” said Wood. “But he was great. The whole
experience was just a ball.”
Neither Wood nor Coiro had the luxury of soaking in their respective experiences for long.
“We’ll be right back here tomorrow morning at 5 for the sponsors outing, which is a double shotgun and a long day,” said Wood the day after the championship concluded. “Thankfully, I have the best
staff and I know that they will have everything ready. Having such a great staff made it so easy for me to go play and not even think about the pro shop operations, because I know they have it covered.”