Storylines From The 2008 USGA Senior Amateur Championship
Sept. 20-25, 2008
Shady Oaks Country Club, Fort Worth, Texas
The average age of the 156 competitors in the 2008 USGA Senior Amateur field is 58.5 years old.
David Pocknall of Katy, Texas, who turned 55 on Sept. 18, is the youngest player in the field, eight days younger than Herb Fisher of The Woodlands, Texas.
Pocknall is one of 51 players for whom this is the first USGA championship appearance. There are 88 players competing in their first USGA Senior Amateur.
Three golfers waited until age 63 to qualify for their first USGA championship: Gary Fox of Northridge, Calif.; Dave Hambley of Bluffton, S.C.; and Bruce Wold of Novato, Calif.
At age 68, Bill Ploeger of Columbus, Ga., is the 2008 field’s oldest player. Ploeger, the 1999 Senior Amateur champion, is the only player in the field to have been born in the 1930s.
There are three other 68-year-olds in the field: Jerry Cundari of Portland, Ore.; Stan Fischer of Richmond, Va.; and 2005 Senior Am winner Mike Rice of Houston, Texas.
Ploeger and Rice are two of several past USGA champions, Walker Cuppers and Copa de las Americas players in the field:
Grace is playing in his first USGA Senior Amateur but he should be comfortable on the course – he was a long-time member at Shady Oaks. Grace was the runner-up at the 1974 U.S. Amateur.
There are players from 40 states represented, along with three foreign countries – Canada, Ireland and Japan.
There are 29 reinstated amateurs in the field.
Denny Alexander, 62, of Fort Worth, Texas, is pulling double duty at Shady Oaks this week. Alexander has been helping organize the championship for the past few years as general chairman. But he’s also qualified for the championship, which will be his fourth Senior Amateur appearance.
Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, 55, of Gainesville, Fla., is the head golf coach at the University of Florida. Alexander, the 1986 U.S. Amateur champion, led the Gators to the NCAA team title in 1993 and 2001.
Bill Barry Jr., 57, of Hampden, Mass., is playing in his first USGA event but he has a veteran of USGA championships on his bag this week. Jack Kearney, his Massachusetts State four-ball partner, is a Delta pilot who has played in numerous USGA championships, including the 1997 Mid-Amateur when Barry served as Kearney’s caddie.
Don Bliss, 57, of Chesterfield, Mo., is the only person in the history of USGA championships to record two holes-in-one during the same round. Bliss, who serves as executive director of the Gateway PGA, aced the 10th and eighth holes during his first round of stroke play at the 1987 Mid-Amateur, played at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas.
While many in the field would profess to being unfamiliar with Facebook, David Bradford, 57, of Provo, Utah, is quite the opposite. With more than 4,000 Facebook friends, Bradford is probably right when he says he is the “most connected guy in the championship.”
Larry Clark, 60, of Kingston, Ga., first played in a USGA championship in the 1986 U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he was a medalist.
Jerry Cundari, 68, of Portland, Ore., played in the 1957 U.S. Junior Amateur with Jack Nicklaus. During the championship, Nicklaus introduced Cundari to Bob Jones, who had come to Ohio to watch the future eight-time USGA champion.
Stan Fischer, 68, of Richmond, Va., was a quarterback at the University of Virginia. He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Curiously, each of his six career holes-in-one have been made with a 6-iron.
Don Jorgenson, 61, of Tucson, Ariz., didn’t play well the last time he played a USGA championship – the 1999 U.S. Senior Open. Jorgenson vowed to return to the Senior Open to redeem himself but never got the chance. While riding his bicycle, he was hit by a car, which led to three surgeries and a lot of rehabilitation. Jorgenson, a retired policeman, regained his amateur status in June and is playing in his first Senior Amateur.
Greg Kendall, 55, of Sioux Falls, S.D., is playing in his first USGA championship. He can probably count on good advice from his caddie – his daughter Maggie, who serves as the women’s head golf coach at the University of Mobile (Ala.).
Curt Knorr, 56, of Atlanta, Ga., admits to battling the yips for the past 10 years. Recently, he’s taken to putting with his eyes closed. It must be working – he’s qualified for his first USGA championship.
Rev. William T. Lee, 64, of New Haven, Conn., is a clergyman. His grandfather, Anton Lee, was once in the Guinness Book of Records as the oldest man in the world to make a hole-in-one, which he did at age 94 years, 11 months and 23 days.
David Lucks, 57, of Kirkwood, Mo., hopes to just make it home in time for his daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. The dinner is the evening of Sept. 25, the same day as the championship match for this Senior Amateur, so if he makes it to the final, he’ll have to dash home quickly to make it in time for the dinner.
Thomas Lyons, 59, of Pleasanton, Calif., has been trying to qualify for USGA championships since 1972. He finally made it by qualifying for this Senior Amateur.
John “Sandy” McCall, 58, of The Woodlands, Texas, was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 1973-75. He used to watch the King of Morocco, Hassan II, hit golf balls into the palace courtyard from one of his towers.
Thomas Mish, 58, of Grapevine, Texas, is a captain for American Airlines.
Tom Nesbitt, 56, of Nashville, Tenn., is a urologic surgeon. His brother Jon, a thoracic surgeon, will serve as his caddie this week at Shady Oaks.
Alan Pineault, 60, of San Antonio, Texas, is playing in his second Senior Amateur. He lost his right kidney to cancer in 2006. After a slow recovery, Pineault, a retired U.S. Air Force chaplain, discovered just before his qualifier that his cancer has returned, so this might be his last tournament for a while.
David Pocknall, 55, of Katy, Texas, is a paleontologist whose work has taken him to all seven continents. He learned to play golf on a sheep paddock in New Zealand.
Timothy Pope, 55, of Spartanburg, S.C., is a business partner of Kangaroo Golf Motorcaddies. In 1987, he wrote a letter to P.J. Boatwright, then executive director of Rules and Competitions for the USGA, to ask if the company’s products would be allowed in USGA championships. Boatwright’s letter, indicating the motorcaddies would be allowed, is framed and displayed in the company’s lobby.
Cannon Randall, 61, of Mesa, Ariz., recently retired after 40 years in aviation. He spent 21 years as an Air Force fighter pilot in F-4/F-16s, then spent 19 years as a B-737 pilot for Southwest Airlines.
As squadron commander of the Navy’s Antarctic Development Squadron SIX (VXE-6), Jack Rector, 62, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was responsible for deploying more than 600 officers, men and women annually from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif., to provide the air logistics support required by the National Science Foundation’s U.S. Antarctic Research Program from McMurdo Station in Antarctica and throughout the continent, including the South Pole Station.
Ray Richard, 58, of Bourne, Mass., spent three days on an erupting volcano while stationed in Iceland with the U.S. Navy in 1973. Richard shoveled lava off building roofs so they would not collapse.
Mike Rollyson, 62, of Boca Grande, Fla., played basketball at the University of Florida from 1964-68. He noted that he held legendary scorer Pete Maravich to “only” 52 points on two occasions during his collegiate career. Rollyson will have double knee replacements following this Senior Amateur.
Paul Simson, 57, of Raleigh, N.C., recently won his second British Senior Open Championship. He also won the 2006 British Senior. Simson is a two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinalist who has been an alternate for both the USA Walker Cup and World Amateur teams. He has played in a USGA event for 24 consecutive years.
Robert Stevenson, 57, of Buffalo, N.Y., is playing in his first USGA championship. At age 12, he lost an eye in a BB gun accident, which is when he turned to golf.
Norman Swenson, 61, of Boynton Beach, Fla., was on hand to witness a special event at Augusta National Golf Club. His daughter, Perry, made a hole-in-one from the men’s tees.
Denny Taylor, 56, of Gladstone, Ore., is playing in his first Senior Amateur but second USGA championship. It’s easy to remember his other appearance – at the 1990 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Old Warson in St. Louis, he broke his nose.
Sam Till Jr., 55, of Fort Wayne, Ind., is playing in his first USGA championship but he does have some experience. He caddied for his daughter, Jessica, in the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur.
Ronnie Tumlin, 59, of St. Augustine, Fla., has been shot, cut, run over, bit by an eel and almost killed by a jellyfish. He has no cartilage in his left shoulder and right knee. But he’s still managed to qualify for his third Senior Amateur.
Ron Vannelli, 60, of Edison, N.J., had never played in a USGA event when he turned 50. Since then, he has played in 10, including two Senior Opens.
Steve Welker, 57, of Maricopa, Ariz., dated his wife Sherry when they were teenagers but lost touch for 35 years. While on a business trip to Phoenix a few years ago they reconnected and have now been married for two years.
Rick Westwood, 55, of Wellington, Fla., has played 789 golf courses around the world.